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Black Caps openers opt out of practice match

HAMISH BIDWELL
Last updated 05:00 28/01/2014
Peter Fulton and Hamish Rutherford
Getty Images
PRESSURE GOES ON: Black Caps openers Peter Fulton, left, and Hamish Rutherford have retained their places to face India.

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The New Zealand XI game against India has been further dumbed down by Hamish Rutherford's decision to join fellow test opener Peter Fulton in withdrawing from the two-day match.

On Sunday, Black Caps coach Mike Hesson talked about what a wonderful opportunity the February 2-3 game in Whangarei presented for Fulton and Rutherford to assess the Indian attack.

But later that day, Fulton had pulled the pin and now Rutherford's followed suit, with the pair preferring to play for their Plunket Shield provinces.

Canterbury's George Worker has been called in as one replacement, with New Zealand Cricket's (NZC) general manager national selection, Bruce Edgar, saying the other needs to first pass a fitness test.

The whole affair has a shambolic look about it, with the right hand of NZC not appearing to know what the left's doing. It always had the potential to be a glorified open wicket practice and if the two test players named in the New Zealand XI squad didn't fancy participating in it, then NZC ought to have known that before they were included.

Edgar said yesterday that Fulton and Rutherford were belatedly given the choice of playing and that Fulton, particularly, didn't feel he'd get anything out of being in Whangarei.

"He also played in the New Zealand XI game against the West Indies [at Lincoln in November] and felt, perhaps, the intensity wasn't quite there," Edgar said.

In that match, a handful of West Indian players were joined by New Zealand provincial players to make up 11 players. The bulk of the West Indian squad were still touring India, a tour hastily arranged to enable Sachin Tendulkar to retire from test cricket on his home ground in Mumbai.

This time India want a game in which they can use all 17 of their test squad, with just 11 of them to bat, and the rest to come and gowhile in the field.

"This match, because it's a non-first class game and pretty much a practice game, will be a single-innings affair," said Edgar.

"On reflection, Peter Fulton and also Hamish Rutherford are now going to play Plunket Shield because they certainly have a chance to maybe get two innings instead of one."

Schedules are tight these days, but touring teams usually make the effort to play a first-class match. England, for example, met the New Zealand XI at Queenstown last summer, where the home side chased down 334 on the fourth day to win by three wickets.

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Edgar wasn't sure whether competitive games like that would become a thing of the past or whether this summer's arrangements were particular to India.

"I can't answer that. That's one for the guys that do the negotiations."

Without Fulton and Rutherford, the New Zealand XI has an even more youthful look to it, with NZC having made a deliberate decision not to pick players who feature in any of the Plunket Shield sides.

- Fairfax Media

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