Selection headaches are a usual part of a coach's job but this year Central Districts coach Alan Hunt will have more than most.
CD have a big squad this year and it was hard to get it down to 13 for their first four-day Plunket Shield game against Wellington in Napier tomorrow.
"There's always hard decisions and these are harder than most," Hunt said. "With the Black Caps, five New Zealand contracted [players] and 14 others . . . You can only play 12 people and we've got some other guys who are strong contenders who are non-contracted."
With 19 in his squad for the year, even with Ross Taylor, Jacob Oram and Adam Milne with the Black Caps in Sri Lanka, Hunt was spoilt for choice.
Hunt said Taranaki top-order batsman Dean Robinson was probably the unluckiest, missing out on a spot for this weekend having played last season and scored runs in Napier at the Chapple Cup last weekend.
Aucklander Jeet Raval, new to CD this year, has taken Robinson's spot, which Wanganui's Ben Smith was also contesting.
Kruger van Wyk and Doug Bracewell are only with the Stags for two games before they join the Black Caps in Sri Lanka, which could give an opportunity to a Manawatu player.
Dane Cleaver, who is on the comeback trail from a back injury, could fill van Wyk's shoes as wicketkeeper.
His Manawatu team-mate, speedster Bevan Small, could have been an option to replace Bracewell but is still suffering from a recurring rib injury.
"I'd absolutely love to have him on the park" Hunt said. "The reality is he's going to have some surgery quite soon."
CD will have their test players available for about eight games of the Plunket Shield this season but they will be a rare sight in the shorter formats.
Left-arm swing bowler Ben Wheeler from Marlborough has recovered faster than expected from injury and should play, while CD will see more of leg-spinner Tarun Nethula than expected, after he was dropped from the national side.
Northern Districts newcomer Andrew Mathieson, former Wellington right-armer Andrew Lamb and Manawatu's Roald Badenhorst should fight it out for the final bowling spot in the XI.
Hunt said Badenhorst had impressed him and could feature more later in the summer.
All-rounder and new captain Kieran Noema-Barnett led the side well in pre-season and is joined in the batting order by all-rounder Carl Cachopa, veteran Mathew Sinclair, New Zealand under-19 captain Will Young and hard-hitting Manawatu man Jamie How.
"The preparation's been second to none, it can't be faulted, Hunt said. "Hopefully, we'll hit the ground running on Sunday. But certainly through the winter and pre-season it's been very good and we're looking pretty positive at this first game."
Central Districts: Jamie How, Jeet Raval, William Young, Mathew Sinclair, Kieran Noema-Barnett (captain), Carl Cachopa, Kruger van Wyk, Doug Bracewell, Tarun Nethula, Ben Wheeler, Andrew Mathieson, Roald Badenhorst, Andrew Lamb.
Wellington: Stephen Murdoch (captain), Michael Papps, Mike Pollard, Jesse Ryder, Grant Elliott, Luke Woodcock, Luke Ronchi, Jeetan Patel, Andy McKay, Mark Gillespie, Scott Kuggeleign, Dane Hutchinson
- Manawatu Standard