Opening batsman Martin Guptill has been left out of New Zealand's squad for the upcoming two-Test series against Pakistan. Uncapped Auckland batsman Jeet Raval and allrounder Colin de Grandhomme have been picked, while allrounder Todd Astle, who played his only Test in November 2012, has been recalled.
Raval, who was in the squad for New Zealand's Test tours of Zimbabwe and South Africa earlier this year, is set to take Guptill's place at the top of the order. The 28-year-old left-handed batsman averaged 55.71 in last season's Plunket Shield and in three matches this season has scored 244 runs at an average of 40.66.
Guptill's form in Tests this year has been a worry for the side. In nine matches, the batsman scored 393 runs at an average of 24.56 with two fifties, struggling for runs in the home series against Australia and on the tours of South Africa and India. Four other players who were part of the India tour - Doug Bracewell, Jeetan Patel, Luke Ronchi and Ish Sodhi - missed out. Among the excluded players who toured India, Ronchi had the best performance, ending as the highest run-getter for New Zealand with 200 runs in six Test innings. Patel and Sodhi picked up six and three wickets respectively, while Bracewell did not get a game.
"Jeet has been in the picture for a while now and he benefitted from spending time in the environment during the tour of Africa," New Zealand selector Gavin Larsen said. "His form in recent seasons has been excellent and the opportunity for Jeet to begin his international career in familiar conditions will be important.
"Luke, Martin, Doug miss out this series, but we know that they and the others who miss out will continue to work hard on their game and get the chance to continue staking a claim in the domestic competition."
Astle and de Grandhomme were rewarded for their consistent performances in domestic cricket, with Astle's legspin set to cover for the absence of allrounder Mitchell Santner, who fractured his wrist recently. Astle is the only specialist spinner in the squad.
Astle has taken 116 wickets in the last three Plunket Shield seasons, and 14 in this edition of the tournament. He has also contributed with the bat for Canterbury, scoring 267 runs, including a career-best 195 against Northern Districts in the first round.
De Grandhomme, who has played an ODI and four T20Is for New Zealand, has been picked as an all-round option. He has scored 216 runs in three Plunket Shield matches so far, including one century, and has taken five wickets for Auckland as a seamer. The century, an unbeaten 144, came in tight two-wicket win against Otago, in a run chase of 373.
"Todd's been incredibly consistent at the domestic level, having been one of the top four wicket-takers in the Plunket Shield for the past threes seasons," Larsen said. "His bowling has continued to improve and he's also shown impressive form with the bat, so Todd provides a similar skill set to Mitchell Santner in his absence.
"Since Colin returned from injury last season, he's made a number of key contributions with bat and ball. He's made an impressive start to the current Plunket Shield season and he provides us with another strong allrounder option."
Six players were not considered due to injury: Santner, Mark Craig, Adam Milne, Mitchell McClenaghan, Colin Munro and George Worker. Corey Anderson, too, was not considered, as he continues to work on building up his bowling workload, after recovering from a back injury. Anderson had been picked as a specialist batsman in the ODI series against India, but bowled four overs in the fifth match.
The first Test will be played in Christchurch from November 17, while the second Test starts from November 25. Astle and de Grandhomme have been withdrawn from the New Zealand A squad for the tour match against the Pakistanis, with Kyle Jamieson and Luke Woodcock taking their place.
New Zealand squad Kane Williamson (capt), Todd Astle, Trent Boult, Colin de Grandhomme, Matt Henry, Tom Latham, Henry Nicholls, Jimmy Neesham, Jeet Raval, Tim Southee, Ross Taylor, Neil Wagner, BJ Watling