The difficult task of replicating Jesse Ryder's batting prowess was the biggest challenge facing the New Zealand selectors in compiling their World Twenty20 squad.
All the public utterings from New Zealand Cricket suggest Ryder's card is marked after his off-field issues with alcohol, leaving Martin Guptill's opening partner for next month's tournament in Bangladesh as the main order of business.
Kane Williamson, Tom Latham and Anton Devcich, none of whom played in the 2-0 T20 series win over West Indies, are contenders and there is potentially room for all three in the squad of 15 to be named today by national selection manager Bruce Edgar.
Williamson guided Northern Districts into the national T20 final in a standout cameo last month, hitting 79 off 55 balls then taking one for 25 opening the bowling with Devcich against Canterbury on a spin-friendly Hamilton pitch. Subcontinent conditions require at least three spin options in a squad, and Williamson and Devcich would provide backup for frontliner Nathan McCullum in Daniel Vettori's absence.
Devcich got some subcontinent experience in Sri Lanka before Christmas, without huge success, but can clear the rope, bowl some handy left-armers and field brilliantly, making him an ideal squad man.
Latham is also a clean striker in T20 and would provide wicketkeeping backup to Luke Ronchi, assuming captain Brendon McCullum's days with the gloves are over.
Injury concerns over Adam Milne and Matt Henry complicate the fast bowling mix, and bring Hamish Bennett into the frame.
Milne, the 150kmh man, made his name in the West Indies T20 series but suffered a side strain against India on January 19 that was expected to rule him out for six weeks. Picking him this soon would be a risk.
Henry's stocks are soaring after his four for 38 against India on ODI debut and his IPL contract with Stephen Fleming's Chennai, but the 22-year-old has a niggly groin strain that will rule him out of a second successive Plunket Shield match today. It is understood Henry is still several weeks away from playing again and Bangladesh may come up too soon. Bennett is the obvious next cab off the rank.
New Zealand have a camp in Dubai, then play warmup matches against Pakistan and Australia before their tournament opener against England in Chittagong on March 22. South Africa, Sri Lanka and a qualifier are also in their pool.
- Sunday Star Times
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