Chris Cairns: Williamson needed match play

CHRIS CAIRNS
Last updated 05:00 01/12/2013
Kane Williamson
Getty Images
BACKBONE: Kane Williamson raised his fourth test century, and third on the subcontinent, before being dismissed late on day one for 114.

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OPINION: The selectors named a predictable and safe Black Caps squad for the first test in Dunedin but Kane Williamson's inclusion has me a little uneasy.

In time Williamson will deliver on his promise and he should etch himself into the top echelon of New Zealand's batting ranks. But he comes back into a test with no match practice.

You can never recreate match conditions in a practice environment. Ideally Williamson should have played a domestic four-day game to test his injured hand and pronounce himself fit. He is the incumbent No 3 and he did very well recently in trying conditions in Bangladesh.

But there should be a process to integrate Williamson back into the test team, not one that rushes him back under a pretence where hope plays a part that he will make it through the game.

It's good to see Aaron Redmond has been included based on sheer weight of runs in the domestic game. It's important that players are rewarded for posting fine performances with bat and ball.

Domestic players must always feel their efforts at the coal face are worth something.

Talking of talent, Corey Anderson has been included under an injury cloud as well. Bruce Edgar has said Anderson will be fit to bowl as required. Rib injuries are tough and can flare up again at any stage. But I sense that Anderson is included first and foremost as a batsman.

Anderson must be fit to bowl because he is important to shoulder some of the seam bowling grunt work in the middle of the innings. It is also important because Ish Sodhi must play.

I hear talk of a four-strong seam attack but I hope it is not seriously entertained. New Zealand will be left too vulnerable with this type of attack.

Tim Southee, Trent Boult and Neil Wagner are more than capable of taking the lion's share of the 20 wickets needed to bring down what will be a weakened and disorientated West Indies. Southee's impressive domestic haul this week shows he is ready and Boult looks a class act.

I have said before that Wagner is a tremendous foil and is pivotal in the third seamer role - where England is finding its Achilles heel in Australia.

Any top test team is always defined by the people who take the field to begin their team's discipline. Excellent opening bowlers are what we do have. Excellent opening batters are what we are waiting to evolve.

This test series is a defining one in the career of Peter Fulton. He is a man of quiet strength. He is a tough competitor but he must now believe he is good enough to be the key man over the next three years in this opening role for New Zealand. That is what his focus should be.

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He must be afforded this entire series to judge his worth and in partnership with Hamish Rutherford. They have to lay the foundation to set the tone for the innings.

There is talk Brendon McCullum is struggling and I do feel for him. We should halt talk of anything other than leading this side in the upcoming test. I hope he is fit and can reach a wonderful milestone of 100 tests in the not too distant future. New Zealand is a better side when he is in it.

- Chris Cairns is a former Black Cap

- © Fairfax NZ News

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