Mark Craig gets shock call-up for Black Caps

MARK GEENTY
Last updated 11:25 15/04/2014
Mark Craig
SHOCKER: Otago offspinner Mark Craig has received a shock call-up to the New Zealand test team to tour West Indies.

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Otago offspinner Mark Craig has received a shock callup to the New Zealand test squad to tour West Indies after Jeetan Patel was a late withdrawal last night.

Craig and Wellington gloveman Luke Ronchi are the two uncapped test players named in the 15-man squad for three tests in the Caribbean in June.

Patel, currently playing for English county Warwickshire, was originally picked for his first international in 16 months but made himself unavailable for personal reasons.

He told selector Bruce Edgar he wanted to commit to a full season at Warwickshire, for whom he was player of the year in 2013, and also be close to his wife and baby daughter who are with him in the UK. Daniel Vettori (back) remains unavailable as his recent bowling loads are not up to the intensity of test cricket.

Auckland-born Craig, 27, took 22 wickets at an average of 39.72 in the Plunket Shield. He was the best-performed offspinner and the selectors wanted someone who turns the ball away from the West Indies' left-handers.

With Ish Sodhi already there, this would have counted against Canterbury legspinner Todd Astle who was the best spinner in the Plunket Shield with 37 wickets at 30.48.

Coach Mike Hesson said Craig provided a nice balance with legspinner Sodhi, with pitches at Kingston, Port-of-Spain and Georgetown expected to turn and favour the home spinners.

''Mark has had a strong Plunket Shield taking 22 wickets and his right-arm off-spinners will be valuable against their left-handed heavy top order batting line-up. He's been in our sights for some time and was also chosen for our winter training squad."

Openers Peter Fulton and Hamish Rutherford retained their positions and appear to be in a three-way scrap with Tom Latham for two spots at the top of the order.

Ronchi was named as backup gloveman with Latham included purely as a specialist batsman.

''Luke also provides us with middle order batting cover as he's a good player of spin bowling,'' Hesson said.

Jesse Ryder and Doug Bracewell were not considered as they are yet to satisfy the selectors that they have their off-field issues under control.

Meanwhile, test gloveman BJ Watling will captain a New Zealand A side for first-class and one-day matches in England in August. Hesson said the matches would be a good opportunity to look more closely at a number of other players in the build-up to Cricket World Cup 2015.

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NEW ZEALAND TEST SQUAD FOR WEST INDIES

Brendon McCullum (c) - Otago Volts
Corey Anderson - Northern Knights
Trent Boult - Northern Knights
Mark Craig - Otago Volts
Peter Fulton - Canterbury Wizards
Tom Latham - Canterbury Wizards
James Neesham - Otago Volts
Luke Ronchi – Wellington Firebirds
Hamish Rutherford - Otago Volts
Ish Sodhi - Northern Knights
Tim Southee - Northern Knights
Ross Taylor - Central Stags
Neil Wagner - Otago Volts
BJ Watling - Northern Knights
Kane Williamson - Northern Knights 

NEW ZEALAND A SQUAD FOR TOUR TO ENGLAND

BJ Watling (c) - Northern Knights
Hamish Bennett - Canterbury Wizards
Dean Brownlie - Canterbury Wizards
Colin de Grandhomme - Auckland Aces
Anton Devcich - Northern Knights (returns after one-day matches)
Grant Elliott - Wellington Firebirds
Matt Henry - Canterbury Wizards
Scott Kuggeleijn - Northern Knights
Tom Latham - Canterbury Wizards
Adam Milne - Central Stags
Daryl Mitchell - Northern Knights
Colin Munro - Auckland Aces (returns after one-day matches)
Hamish Rutherford - Otago Volts
Ish Sodhi - Northern Knights (returns after one-day matches)

Added to the NZA squad for the two three-day matches:

Todd Astle - Canterbury Wizards
Michael Bracewell - Otago Volts
Mark Craig - Otago Volts

- Fairfax Media

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