Test openers cut from New Zealand contract list
New Zealand's Test openers for most of the past year, Hamish Rutherford and Peter Fulton, have both been axed from the central contract list for 2014-15. Fast bowler Doug Bracewell, allrounder Grant Elliott, spinner Bruce Martin and batsman Dean Brownlie have also lost their contracts, with New Zealand's selectors making six changes to the 20-man group.
Spinners Mark Craig and Ish Sodhi earned deals, along with fast bowlers Matt Henry and Adam Milne, as well as wicketkeeper Luke Ronchi and, not surprisingly, the allrounder Jimmy Neesham, who has made two centuries from his first four Tests. New Zealand's general manager of national selection, Bruce Edgar, said the newer players had all earned their places on the list.
"We've had a very strong summer followed by the Test series victory in the West Indies where a number of younger players put their hands up for consideration," Edgar said. "Two of those integral to the series win in the West Indies were spinners Ish Sodhi and Mark Craig. While we accept that Mark and Ish are by no means the finished product, they are promising bowlers that we want to invest time in."
"Adam and Matt are two exciting young bowlers that if we manage well have got a big future in all forms of the game. Jimmy and Luke are both consistent members of our shorter-form teams and they've recently been selected in our Test squad as well."
The presence of only one specialist Test opener, Tom Latham, was an indication that uncertainty remains as to who will take those positions over the coming year. Rutherford was cut after making 322 runs at 21.46 over the past year, while Fulton struggled just as much and managed only 270 runs at 19.28.
"There'll be plenty of opportunities for the openers and others with domestic contracts to put their hand up on both the New Zealand A tour to England later this month and throughout the season in the domestic competitions," Edgar said.
A set criteria is used to rank players across all three forms of the game, with Test cricket receiving twice the weighting of ODI and T20 cricket. The players with the 20 highest aggregate scores are then offered contracts.
Daniel Vettori was not included in the contract list after turning down a deal last year due to his ongoing injury problems. Vettori has not played for New Zealand since June last year, but there are hopes that he will be able to take part in the World Cup next year.
"He's working pretty hard," Edgar said. "I hear he's pretty fit. It's just a matter of form and we would look seriously at him if we know he's available."
Bracewell and Jesse Ryder, both with a history of disciplinary issues, had run into trouble again this February for staying out late at an Auckland bar on the eve of the first Test against India. Edgar said that Bracewell, who had also suffered a broken foot at that time, was "doing everything right as far as we are concerned at the moment."
Ryder had been considered for selection earlier this year, Edgar said. "At the time, we decided that his preparation wasn't up to the standard that we required. To this stage, it's still the same. It doesn't discount him from selection at some future point."
While Bracewell has not played since January, Ryder is currently doing duty for Essex in county cricket, where he has scored 317 runs for the season at an average of 31.70.
Contract list Corey Anderson, Trent Boult, Mark Craig, Martin Guptill, Matt Henry, Tom Latham, Mitchell McClenaghan, Brendon McCullum, Nathan McCullum, Kyle Mills, Adam Milne, Colin Munro, Jimmy Neesham, Luke Ronchi, Ish Sodhi, Tim Southee, Ross Taylor, Neil Wagner, BJ Watling, Kane Williamson.