New Zealand's chances in the Test series against India suffered a major blow with offspinner Mark Craig being ruled out of the remaining two matches. He will be replaced by Jeetan Patel, who last played for New Zealand in January 2013. Craig, who suffered a side strain, was New Zealand's best spinner, and the most accurate, in the Kanpur Test even though that didn't show in his match figures of two wickets for 139 runs. Craig had made a comeback to the side in Kanpur after missing all four Tests on the recent tour of Africa.
"We're really disappointed for Mark, knowing the work he's put in to prepare for this series," New Zealand coach Mike Hesson said. "He started well with the ball in the first innings, before developing the side strain."
Patel, who averages 48.46 in Test cricket, was the leading wicket-taker in the 2016 English County Championship with 69 wickets for Warwickshire and was on Monday named the Most Valuable Player in the Professional Cricketers' Association rankings for the season. "Jeetan is up to speed from a bowling load perspective having recently completed a successful county season - so he will be ready for the rigours of Test cricket," Hesson said. "He'll also add invaluable experience to our young spin group."
Craig is expected to take four weeks to recover from his injury. This was the third injury blow for the tourists. Tim Southee was ruled out of the Test series with an ankle injury but could come back for the ODIs. Allrounder Jimmy Neesham missed the first Test after being struck on the rib in the nets in Delhi, but has been bowling in the nets in Kanpur.
Kane Williamson, the New Zealand captain, admitted Patel had not been on the selectors' radar before the start of the tour. "He wasn't initially," he said. "Obviously, having three frontline spinners over here, we didn't expect to need too many more spin options. In saying that, having played three in the first one, certainly we had to sit down and think about it, given the number of overs they may bowl and the possible chance of injury, which unfortunately has happened to Mark Craig.
"For Jeetan to come into the squad after a period of time away from the team is a great opportunity for him. The guys are all looking forward to having him and his experience in this side. He's been a quality performer for a long period of time, and it is that like-for-like swap as well."
It might not be unfair to say that Patel and New Zealand had almost given up on each other. "Jeets loves the game of cricket and loves playing for his country," Williamson said. "It [the recall] was perhaps unexpected. He has played a lot in England lately and almost considers himself a local in that part of the world, but we know he's not and we are looking forward to having him back in the side. There is a number of other players from Wellington in the side who have spent a lot of time with Jeets, and they're all very excited about it. He is looking forward to coming back and making an impact."