June 22, 2012

Why are Gillespie and Wagner missing?

The World Twenty20 seems to have been the priority in New Zealand's contracts list - never mind that there are 11 Tests in the next 12 months

It's odd that in what will be New Zealand's heaviest year (July 2012 to June 2013) of Test cricket, two players in the fringes of the squad have been left out of the contracts list. Mark Gillespie and Neil Wagner are close to being first-choice Test recruits, or at least putting pressure on Chris Martin and Doug Bracewell.

Gillespie's venom on recall last summer against South Africa was welcome. His form included innings hauls of 5 for 59 and 6 for 113 in the final two Tests.

He is intimidating but injury-prone. His current ankle strain and the fact that he is closing in on 33 may have clouded the selectors' thinking. However, that did not hinder the retention of 33-year-olds Jacob Oram and Kyle Mills. Both played their last Tests in 2009 and have also had well-documented injury problems.

It is also a concern that when asked to reveal one thing fans don't know about him, Oram, in an interview with ESPNcricinfo, said: "I'd probably rather be at home with my son, my family and my dog right now than touring the world playing cricket."

National selection manager Kim Littlejohn has proclaimed the mentoring ability of Mills and Oram to younger players, but whether this ranks as a selection clincher is debatable, with the likes of Daniel Vettori, Brendon McCullum and Ross Taylor already in the various set-ups. Players on the list are ranked one to 20 and paid annual retainers. The highest-ranked earns $181,000, plus match payments, while No. 20 gets $73,000.

Wagner's eligibility has been anticipated, having proven himself a penetrative wicket-taker for Otago. He topped the Plunket Shield table for the last two seasons, accumulating 51 and 46 first-class wickets respectively.

Trent Boult also pipped Gillespie and Wagner to a contract, despite only being named in the Test squad for the West Indies. However, at 22, he has already taken eight wickets in his first three Tests. A good case can be made to keep him close to the five-day action. In contrast, Tim Southee hasn't been included in the Test squad for the West Indies tour but has shown the potential at international level over the past five seasons to warrant a top 20 deal.

The selectors' emphasis on the World Twenty20 seems myopic, with the short-term glory it would bring, compared to an elevated Test status. Abridged-format allrounders James Franklin and Andrew Ellis make the contract cut, too, with Franklin allowed to skip the West Indies tour to concentrate on shorter-form matches with Essex. However, if New Zealand players do perform in that arena it could ease their entry into the IPL and guarantee further financial security.

The last time New Zealand played more Tests in a calendar year, 12, was in 2001-02, when the players' association was created and contracts became part of the cricketing landscape.

Andrew Alderson is cricket writer at New Zealand's Herald on Sunday

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Kevin on June 25, 2012, 2:52 GMT

    Its the Logans Run of cricket. If your over 30, bye bye. Test cricket... ...what's that? Bert Ironmonger must be rolling in his grave!!!! I don't know why sometimes I get frightened...

  • Jacob on June 24, 2012, 3:49 GMT

    Too much sentimentality with our contract choices, I thought that a 'new school' selector like Littlejohn would have probably mixed it up but noooo. Contracts are about money, as such we should rewarding our test specialists and leaving our t20 specialists such as Oram/Mills/Southee to get their paychecks from the IPL. That way everybody is happy.

  • Lily on June 24, 2012, 0:02 GMT

    NZC have said they didn't pick Wagner because he hasn't played internationally yet. I think that's ridiculous, he's one of our best first-class bowlers, better than some of our international ones, he thoroughly deserved a contract. Gillespie played two tests this year and did fantastically in both of them, and with all these tests on the horizon we're going to need the two of them more than ever. With Wright quitting, NZC seems to be losing it's mind.

  • Dummy4 on June 23, 2012, 22:48 GMT

    Andrew Ellis come on! He can't bowl over 130k's and is told which end of a bat to use. We already have 5 all rounders contracted- why contract a player who can't do anything well?

  • DAvid on June 23, 2012, 21:04 GMT

    I can see why Franklin is in, he's plays in IPL and England and so has plenty of top class experience while being relatively injury-free. Which in itself is depressingly rare for any kiwi who rolls his arm over.

    But to put Oram and Mills ahead of Wagner and Gillespie seems looking to the past rather than the future. Both are injury-prone and their match-winning performances mostly behind them.

  • VENKATACHALAM on June 23, 2012, 11:52 GMT

    confused priorities from NZ cricket

  • Dummy4 on June 23, 2012, 9:52 GMT

    another example of poor nz management and biast towards players "pedigree" if they were all blacks they would be dropped simple.

  • Shakti on June 23, 2012, 9:38 GMT

    A ridiculous move from New Zealand cricket.James Franklin has a central contract but not Mark Gillespie.Gillespie worked hard on some flat pitches against South Africa.Gillespie deserved much more respect.New Zealand will regret it & will continue to struggle in test cricket.

  • David on June 23, 2012, 9:14 GMT

    Hawk, you're wrong, NZ have competed strongly lately and beaten Australia in a test, an Australian team which immediately went on to whitewash India. The last thing we want to do is promote more of our players to the IPL as we could lose them to the national team - which is looking like happening in the away series to England next year. Wagner should go straight into the 1st test.

  • Dummy4 on June 23, 2012, 8:23 GMT

    Lets see, a chance to win a major tournament and bring glory to a nation... or win a few Tests which the general public of New Zealand wouldn't even care about? No brainer, Sports is about Winning and GLORY!

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