James Franklin backs Patel for Black Caps tour
He's said it before and he'll say it again: Wellington skipper James Franklin is adamant Jeetan Patel should be the second spinner in the New Zealand test squad for the West Indies.
Selectors Mike Hesson and Bruce Edgar meet on Friday to pick two squads of 15; the Black Caps for three tests in the Caribbean in June and NZA for one-day and first-class matches in England.
Coach Hesson said last week they would definitely choose two specialist spinners for the squad as they expect slow, turning pitches in Kingston, Port-of-Spain and Georgetown. Legspinner Ish Sodhi is a certainty and Daniel Vettori (back) extremely unlikely, leaving the other tweaker as a genuine head-scratcher.
Not so in Franklin's eyes.
"I'm biased but I think he [Patel] is still one of the best spinners in the country and he shows how good a spinner he is by one of the big counties in England wanting him back year after year. He goes over there [to Warwickshire] and produces the goods," he said.
"His form, particularly in the last couple of weeks, has been awesome in the one-day stuff. His figures have been outstanding. I'd have him in my team, but I don't pick it."
Patel had a modest first-class season, taking 18 wickets at 47, but was a key man in Wellington's one-day triumph, taking 10 wickets at 25 with an economy rate of 3.8.
The 33-year-old returned to Warwickshire this week, for whom he was voted player of the year in 2013 after taking 52 wickets at 30 and scoring 438 runs at 31. His county team-mate Ian Bell recently labelled Patel the best spinner in England. The previous year Patel snared 51 wickets at 23 as the Bears won the first division title.
Patel played the last of his 19 tests against South Africa in January 2013 and appeared to have his card marked by Hesson, notably for his batting when he backed away against the quicks.
Still, his wicket-taking exploits on turning English pitches give him a tick for the Caribbean where Sunil Narine and Shane Shillingford will provide a huge threat to New Zealand's batsmen.
The fact West Indies' likely test lineup contains left-handers Chris Gayle, Kieran Powell, Darren Bravo and Shivnarine Chanderpaul also helps an offspinner's cause.
On Plunket Shield numbers, Canterbury legspinner Todd Astle is the form horse. He took 37 wickets at 30 as the Wizards won the title, second to Wellington's Mark Gillespie (42) on the wicket-taking charts, and bats well. But whether two legspinners is prudent against a lineup of left-handers is another question.
Left-armer Bruce Martin is contracted to NZ Cricket but was dropped in Bangladesh last October, and struggled with injury in Plunket Shield taking 23 wickets at 54. Legspinner Tarun Nethula (15 wickets at 57) continues to battle while young Otago offie Mark Craig is highly rated from age-grade cricket and took 22 shield wickets at 40.