An embarrassment of riches and a winning team presents New Zealand coach and chief selector Mike Hesson some welcome headaches when he names his test squad tomorrow to face India.
Loyalty and consistency of selection has been a hallmark of Hesson's reign, though, which means the 11 who played in the Wellington and Hamilton victories over West Indies should all retain their spots in a 13-man squad.
Whether the 11 remains unchanged at Eden Park on February 6 is another matter, with Jesse Ryder and Hamish Bennett in the mix.
"It's a challenge to fit everybody in. As a coach and selection group that's the model you want; good players not playing. When we pick that first test side there will be players who have done well for us that won't make it. That's what we're after," Hesson said recently.
"We've won our last series 2-0 and pretty convincingly so for us to make change we'd have to have a pretty good reason for that."
Opener Peter Fulton is most at risk. After scoring 61 in Dunedin, he scored three, six, 11 and 10 against West Indies and scored 18 and 10 for Canterbury against Otago this week, leaving him vulnerable to team-mate Tom Latham who is putting a compelling case as an opener.
Ryder's availability presents the biggest head-scratcher. He should stroll into the squad, assuming Hesson sees him as more than a limited overs-only batsman, but where to fit him into the lineup is the question.
If Eden Park offers up a green seamer, as demanded by Hesson, then some shuffling could see Ryder slot in at No 6 and Fulton and Hamish Rutherford remain as the opening pair.
That would mean legspinner Ish Sodhi missing out on the 11 if conditions looked unlikely to suit him. Corey Anderson and gloveman BJ Watling would shift down a spot each.
Paceman Trent Boult's fitness is a slight query after he suffered a small tear to his left quadriceps in the third test win at Hamilton in late December.
He's played four T20 matches for Northern Districts since, then was kept on ice by New Zealand team management for the finals to have him ready for the two tests.
Wagner is the incumbent third seamer but went off the boil in the West Indies tests and hasn't set the world alight in domestic cricket since. Still it would be tough to drop him from the squad altogether, but leaves him vulnerable to a challenger in the playing 11.
That looked likely to be Adam Milne before he broke down, and now leaves newly-recalled ODI bowler Bennett at the head of the queue. Hesson picks on domestic form and Bennett fits that bill with 24 wickets from five first-class matches for Canterbury, and has proven his durability after back surgery.
Doug Bracewell was in the squad to play West Indies but never took the field and might be fighting to hold off Bennett. The 18-test seamer hasn't exactly demanded inclusion in domestic cricket, meaning the form horse could get the selection nod.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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