John Bracewell, New Zealand's coach and convenor of selectors, has admitted that New Zealand Cricket (NZC) has made little progress towards establishing a solid opening combination. After a season of mass experimentation, which saw four different opening combinations in the space of four Tests, Bracewell said that all efforts had resulted in failures.
Following New Zealand's 0-2 Test series loss to South Africa this week, Bracewell told Radio Sport that the management was still looking for a solution. "We used three different combinations in three Test matches, two of them because of injury, but we're still no further ahead in that department," he said. "It's something we need to nail down as selectors, but in the end when you give guys an opportunity, they have to stand up and do it."
In March, Lou Vincent was controversially dropped for the series against West Indies after he reportedly claimed he did not want to open. In his place was put an out-of-form Hamish Marshall, who failed to deliver at the top. Jamie How, Peter Fulton, who debuted impressively against West Indies at No.3, and Michael Papps all opened in South Africa, with an unconvincing 50-run stand between Papps and Fulton in the third Test being the best performance.
Bracewell lamented all this shuffling, which followed years of makeshift partnerships attempting to fill the gap. "You can't put your hand in the hat and pull out a [prolific Australian opener] Justin Langer," he said. "You have to have time to evolve that person, have to keep the faith, or hope that the system turns somebody out that has those skills, which at the moment isn't the case."
Bracewell's comments also hinted at a return for the discarded Vincent and Mathew Sinclair: "If we want to play our best players, the likes of the Sinclairs and Vincents and people like that, if they want to play, do they want to play there?"
With New Zealand's next Test series only in November against Sri Lanka, Bracewell said the hiatus would be beneficial as they searched for a solution. "That's probably a good thing because it may in fact give us time to try and stabilise and look deeper into what we're trying to achieve in that position."