New Zealand news April 15, 2014

Ronchi, Craig in New Zealand Test squad

ESPNcricinfo staff
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Wicketkeeper Luke Ronchi and offspinner Mark Craig will be hoping for Test debuts on New Zealand's tour of the West Indies after being named in a 15-man squad for the three-Test series in June. The unexpected call-up for Craig came after Jeetan Patel was reportedly told he was in the squad but made himself unavailable so he could focus on a full season for Warwickshire and be with his wife and baby, who are based with him in the UK.

In a statement, New Zealand Cricket said Patel was unavailable for "personal reasons", while the team will again be without Daniel Vettori, who felt his bowling loads were not yet up to the intensity of Test cricket. The selectors did not consider Jesse Ryder or Doug Bracewell, declaring that they were "yet to satisfy the selectors that they have their off-field issues under control".

There was still room for opener Peter Fulton despite his run of low scores over the home summer - after a first-innings 61 against West Indies in Dunedin he managed only 3, 6, 11, 10, 13, 5, 13 and 1 in the remaining home Tests. Tom Latham was included but coach Mike Hesson stressed it was as a batting back-up only, with Ronchi the reserve gloveman to BJ Watling.

Ronchi, who turns 33 next week, has been a regular member of New Zealand's limited-overs squads since moving from Australia and qualifying for his birth country in 2013. However, he is yet to be given a chance in Test cricket, and Hesson said Ronchi would also provide middle-order batting cover "as he's a good player of spin bowling".

The biggest surprise was the inclusion of Craig, who at 27 has played only 22 first-class matches for Otago since making his debut in February 2011. An offspinner who finished the Plunket Shield season with 22 wickets at 39.72, Craig was described by Hesson as a man who had been in the sights of the selectors for some time and whose spin "will be valuable against their left-handed heavy top-order batting line-up".

The absence of Vettori was not a great surprise given that he has not bowled a ball since returning home from a BBL stint with the Brisbane Heat. Vettori had been gradually increasing his workload and had played four Plunket Shield matches earlier in the season but he struggled with a back problem following the BBL.

New Zealand's tour begins with two tour matches in Jamaica starting late next month, followed by Tests in Jamaica, Trinidad and Guyana throughout June. A pair of Twenty20 matches will follow.

"While we gained a convincing 2-0 Test series victory against the West Indies in December, they'll be a totally different proposition in their conditions," Hesson said. "They'll have the added motivation to perform well in the first match which will be Chris Gayle's 100th Test."

Test squad Peter Fulton, Hamish Rutherford, Kane Williamson, Ross Taylor, Brendon McCullum (capt), Tom Latham, Corey Anderson, BJ Watling, Luke Ronchi, Jimmy Neesham, Mark Craig, Tim Southee, Neil Wagner, Trent Boult, Ish Sodhi.

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  • dummy4fb on April 20, 2014, 22:11 GMT

    sorry to say but id use neesham only as injury cover for a batsman, id keep with wagner unless pitch deems otherwise and use craig in short bursts kind of like williamson to ease him in and bowl sodhi from a end for a long period unless boult and southee wraps up the batsmen quickly

  • Min2000 on April 20, 2014, 1:58 GMT

    Rutherford, Latham, Williamson, Taylor, McCullum*, Anderson, Watling+, Neesham, Sodhi, Southee, Boult

    Hate to drop Wagner but Jimmy bowls quick and smashes hundreds. Done deal.

  • regofpicton on April 18, 2014, 11:51 GMT

    Long term thinking it really isn't, is it?. Fulton & Elliot are both 35. For how much longer will they be considered developing prospects?

  • bighit12 on April 18, 2014, 4:57 GMT

    I think the selectors are thinking longer term than most of us in the armchairs. I'd imagine that most of the ones that people are wondering why they have kept their spots are having their last chance to prove themselves. I'd agree that Craig is a spin of the dice... and pointless. If you wanted an offspinner, why doesn't Nathan McCullum get a go? Sure Craig has guts to get over the severe medical condition he had, but that isn't enough in my book.

  • regofpicton on April 17, 2014, 8:23 GMT

    To one cricklyoldbugger from another, you are absolutely right. Comparing the very successful players that don't make it, with the distinctly average players that do, is just baffling. You mention Franklin, who had a great domestic season AND has ample experience a proven record internationally, but . . . "no thanks!"

    However, lack of space means you have to focus, and every time i say what i really think i get edited out.

  • Crinklyoldbugger on April 17, 2014, 7:46 GMT

    Regofpicton ..you make a good point about whether the selectors ( Hesson and Edgar ) ever see the domestic game in NZ. Certainly they take performance in the domestic into account when making their selections. What about Pollard and Franklin from Wgt plus a few others around the country. How can Elliot and Munro hold their spots ? Domestically they didn't figure.

  • dummy4fb on April 17, 2014, 1:19 GMT

    Time for Vettori to go. Even though i went to school with him in Hamilton I can see at 35 he has limited potential anymore. His back is stuffed and he needs to retire with grace.

    It shows the total lack of depth for openers in NZC that Peter Fulton has made the cut again. Averaging 10 in 8 innings his time is definitely up.

    Feel for Ryder. If he wasn't an alcoholic he would be opening instead of Fulton. One can only hope in time he gets the help he needs to overcome his disease. At 29 he is approaching the end. test average of 40+ he will become one of NZ's greatest wasted talents.

  • regofpicton on April 16, 2014, 22:58 GMT

    I wonder, do the selectors "follow NZ cricket"? The idea that they have been watching Mark Craig for some years as a potential international player is surprising, and that he is now considered to be fulfilling that potential is utterly baffling. In fact his "improvement" has been such that he was dropped by Otago for the last Shield game after his 0 for 89 against Auckland. In 1st class season Craig took 22 wickets in 17 innings @ 40; Astle 37 in 16 @ 30 & Nathan 14 in 8 @ 32.Good luck to the young man, but he's been given a hospital pass.

    Though Guptill might be "a white ball player", that didn't stop him scoring 672 red ball runs @ 74.66 during the season, putting his average 2nd to Tom Latham with 948 runs @ 79. But then Latham wasn't picked either!

    And as for Ryder "not being selectable", Otago managed to get 776 runs out of him @ 59.69, and I don't remember there being any dramas involved. Perhaps the Otago management should be given an advisory role in the national "team"?

  • electric_loco_WAP4 on April 16, 2014, 8:00 GMT

    Any spinner NZ pick will be assured bagful of W on slow,spinning WI pitches vs bunch of bats of hosts clueless v spin.Most of them being LHBs will be even better-him being offie.NZ should easily thrash no.8 home side 2/3-0.N Mcullum should've been chosen.

  • D-Ascendant on April 16, 2014, 6:06 GMT

    Left-arm spinner Mark Haslam was picked to tour Zimbabwe in 1992 following just five first class games. His NZ career fizzled out shortly after it began... Mark Craig's selection looks similarly random. I hope he doesn't go Haslam's way!

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