John Bracewell, New Zealand's coach, has admitted that the team management made a mistake trying to convert middle-order batsmen into Test openers. Bracewell, also a selector, accepted that the experiment of trying to turn Hamish Marshall, Peter Fulton and Lou Vincent into openers had failed and that opting for specialist domestic openers would have been the ideal option.
"It's clear for two years since Mark Richardson's retirement that we have been looking to create openers, so we decided over the winter that the people that open for their provinces will be the ones we consider," Bracewell told The Dominion Post. "We looked at the techniques on display and, with Michael Papps injured, Jamie [How] and Craig [Cumming] were the clear frontrunners."
Cumming and Matthew Sinclair have been included in New Zealand's 13-man squad for the first Test against Sri Lanka starting December 7 at Christchurch. "Craig just got pushed further and further back as players emerged like Jamie How and we tried to convert players from the middle order," said Bracewell. "We learned a lot from converting players into openers but what we also learned was we probably made errors."
Sinclair, Bracewell said, found the nod ahead of Fulton based on his hundred for Central Districts against Northern Districts last Wednesday. "It is a two-Test series and we decided to pick on form. With Mathew Sinclair having collected such big numbers last year and started off the right way this year we went with him," he explained. "Peter is very unlucky, as is Hamish. He was on 60 and batting well when I told him at lunch he had missed selection, but to his credit he put that aside and scored a big one ."
Wellington's Iain O'Brien was not a far shot from making the playing in the first Test. "It is commonly accepted by the selectors and those we talk to that Iain O'Brien has been the best bowler in the competition so far," said Bracewell. "Iain was unlucky he made his debut against a rampant Australia side [two years ago] and then he had a series of injuries. But he is a deck hitter and that is a rarity in New Zealand and he also has stamina."
Bracewell hinted that Michael Mason, the other fast-bowling recruit, might play ahead of James Franklin, New Zealand's leading wicket-taker in a three-Test series in South Africa earlier this year. "With Dan [Vettori] and Brendon [McCullum] both in such good batting form we don't need to make a decision on who carries the bat best," he said. "We need to select simply on what attack is going to get us 20 wickets."