NZ squad for Bangladesh Tests: Tom Latham to lead, Ajaz Patel dropped

Kane Williamson unavailable as he recovers from long-standing elbow problem

Deivarayan Muthu
Tom Latham and Rachin Ravindra at the Dhaka nets, Dhaka, September 7, 2021

Tom Latham will lead New Zealand against Bangladesh while Rachin Ravindra is the only spinner picked in the side  •  AFP/Getty Images

In the injury-enforced absence of Kane Williamson, Tom Latham will stand in as New Zealand's captain for the forthcoming two-Test series against Bangladesh, which begins with the first match in Mount Maunganui on New Year's Day.
After Williamson was sidelined from the Mumbai Test earlier this month with a long-standing elbow injury, head coach Gary Stead indicated that he could be out of action for a sustained period although he is unlikely to undergo surgery.
Williamson's elbow problem had flared up in the lead-up to the T20 World Cup in the UAE, where he cut short his stints at the nets to manage the injury, and troubled him in India as well.
"It's obviously disappointing not to have Kane available for this series but, as we noted in India, he is undergoing a sustained period of rest followed by rehabilitation, strengthening and gradual batting loading," Stead said. "We have every confidence in Tom leading the side - he's done an excellent job in the past when called upon."
Devon Conway, who had been ruled out of the T20 World Cup final against Australia in the UAE and the subsequent India tour with a bizarre self-inflicted hand injury, returned to the squad. However, there was no place for Ajaz Patel, who made history by bagging all ten wickets in the first innings of the Mumbai Test.
Wellington allrounder Rachin Ravindra, who made a strong first impression in India, was the only spin-bowling option in the 13-man squad.
"You do feel for Ajaz after his record-breaking display in India," Stead said. "However, we've always applied a horses-for-courses selection policy and believe the players selected best fit the way we want to take on Bangladesh here at home."
Trent Boult, who had opted out of the India tour because of bubble fatigue, was also back in the side as New Zealand ponder unleashing their four-pronged pace pack on Bangladesh. The left-arm seamer had recently returned to action in the 20-over Super Smash competition where he came away with 0 for 19 in four overs for Northern Brave against Auckland Aces in Hamilton.
Neil Wagner, who hasn't played competitive cricket since the inaugural World Test Championship (WTC) final in June earlier this year, will get an early look at the Bangladeshis, having also been named in the New Zealand XI for the two-day tour match from December 28 at the Bay Oval's No.2 ground.
"I love getting the red ball in my hand and this match presents a perfect opportunity to get some miles in the legs ahead of what should be a hard-fought Test series against Bangladesh," Wagner said.
Conway is the other notable name in the New Zealand XI for the tour game but his place in the XI will be subject to full recovery from injury.
"I'm really looking forward to getting back into some competitive cricket and hopefully I'm passed fit to play," Conway said. "I've just started batting again and testing out my hand so I'm hopeful of making my return for the New Zealand XI. There's nothing like a match situation to really test it out and help build some confidence."
Ross Taylor, who had a horror tour of India, managing a mere 20 runs across four innings, retained his place in the Test squad. He is three Tests away from surpassing Daniel Vettori as New Zealand's most capped player in the format.
Colin de Grandhomme, who had also opted out of the India tour, was omitted from this squad altogether, with Daryl Mitchell getting the nod after a breakout winter across formats.

Deivarayan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo