New Zealand call on former All Black
After ignoring Jeff Wilson, the double international, since his return to cricket in 2002-03, the selectors have suddenly named him in the New Zealand squad for their three-match series against the World XI. Wilson, who played four ODIs against Australia back in 1993, was forced to give international cricket away after receiving the first of his 60 caps for the rugby All Blacks, and nobody had tipped his shock return.
"I have been working towards Black Caps selection," said Wilson, who retired from all forms of rugby in May 2002. "Now that I have this chance I am looking forward to getting in there and making the most of it."
Comfortable taking the new ball, batting almost anywhere in the order and fielding in the slips or the outfield, Wilson is a true allrounder. His comeback season was ruined by injury, but last year he took 23 first-class wickets at 17 for Otago and averaged 52 with the bat in the domestic one-day competition.
"His match-turning ability is undoubted and we just need to see if he can step up to this level again and also see if he can perform in a travel-play-travel environment," said John Bracewell, the coach. "We are keen to explore another option for a bowler who can bat well in the closing overs. There is no guarantee that Jeff will be a regular feature in the team, but this is an opportunity for him to establish himself."
One can only speculate about how Wilson's cricket career could have panned out after his blazing 44 not out off 28 balls, which sealed an unlikely series-levelling victory at Hamilton in 1993, as a 19-year-old against Australia. Since returning from the All Blacks, Wilson's performances have failed to attract the selectors' interest and he was surprisingly left out of the A-team's tour of South Africa at the start of the season.
Wilson's returns this season have been useful rather than outstanding, and there has been an undercurrent of scepticism towards him, with some provincial players and selectors believing he is not up to international standard. Those people forget that Wilson possesses an X-factor and he makes things happen. His inclusion in the squad, which carried no other surprises, means New Zealand's bowling allrounders will need to be on top of their games. The series begins at Christchurch on January 22.
New Zealand Stephen Fleming (capt), Nathan Astle, Mathew Sinclair, Scott Styris, Hamish Marshall, Chris Cairns, Jacob Oram, Brendon McCullum (wk), Jeff Wilson, Daniel Vettori, Kyle Mills, Daryl Tuffey.
Andrew McLean is a presenter of The Cricket Club, New Zealand's only national radio cricket show