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Test call-up an opportunity to learn, says uncapped Raval

Batsman Jeet Raval, the lone new face in New Zealand's 16-man squad for the tour of Africa, hopes to treat the opportunity as a learning ground to pitch for higher honours.

Raval, a 27-year old left-hander, was picked ahead of Hamish Rutherford as the back-up opener for Tom Latham and Martin Guptill, after scoring 780 runs at 55.71 in the 2015-16 Plunket Shield, New Zealand's first-class competition. He made 202 not out, 139, 90 and 147 in his last five matches.

"For me it's about learning as much as I can and just be myself," he said after New Zealand's first training session in Pretoria, where the team will be based for a week before flying to Zimbabwe for the first Test starting on July 28. "The coaches have told me that I'm here only because I love the game and that there's no need to change anything. So when I get the opportunity, I'll be ready to go."

Raval, who admitted to being surprised at the call-up, said his induction into the national team had been enjoyable so far. He said it was very different to the culture shock he had to overcome when he migrated from India to New Zealand with his family as a 16-year old in 2004.

"It's a nice and relaxed environment. All the boys have been welcoming, so I'm really enjoying my time so far," he said. "We moved to New Zealand with the family when I was 16 with mum and dad deciding we wanted a lifestyle change. At the start I completely hated it. It was a massive cultural change.

"I couldn't understand a word of what the teacher said on my first day of school at Avondale College because I couldn't speak English. I went home and started crying to my mum and said, 'Mum let's got back to India because I don't know what's going on here.'

"But now, I've found a new home here in Auckland for the last few years. I've scored a few runs, and got a call from Gavin Larsen when I was playing club cricket in UK. I told my wife first, and then called my dad back home in New Zealand. He was over the moon. So I want to just enjoy this opportunity and be myself."

New Zealand start their tour of Zimbabwe with a three-day warm-up fixture in Harare from July 22, before they move to Bulawayo for two Tests. They will then return to South Africa for two Tests.