Spotlight on 20 of the best

DANIEL BIRCHFIELD
Last updated 15:43 18/07/2013
grant elliott
CRAIG SIMCOX/ Fairfax NZ
NEW LIFE: Grant Elliott celebrates a first-class century for Wellington. Elliott's international cricket career has been revived at the age of 34 after being included in this year's list of 20 contracted players.

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OPINION: Normally when New Zealand Cricket's list of 20 contracted players is announced, I find myself doing a fair bit of head-shaking and muttering expletives.

This time however, there's been only a minimal amount of that.

Let's have a look at the contracted 20 and see if coach Mike Hesson has got things right this time.

Corey Anderson

The biggest surprise on the list. Anderson looks to be a pretty decent bowler and has the ability to hit big with the bat. He was impressive on debut during the Champion's Trophy and may well be the man to fill the allrounders void left by the injured Daniel Vettori. Hesson is a fan of Anderson too, which helps even more.

Trent Boult

An automatic selection in the test side, that's the best place for Boult to be at the moment. The Black Caps have a fine limited-overs left-armer in Mitchell McClenaghan, so restricting Boult to tests doesn't mean we lose anything, considering the form of spearhead Tim Southee and Kyle Mills. Focusing on test will give Boult the best chance of becoming a world-class paceman.

Doug Bracewell

Lost his place in the test side to Neil Wagner after injuring his foot cleaning up after a party and has barely been sighted in whites since. Bracewell's form hasn't been all that flash since his match-winning performance in Hobart and may find it difficult to crack the test lineup anytime soon, unless selectors pick four seamers. Adds value to the one-day set up though.

Dean Brownlie

Hasn't done much since scoring a superb century against South Africa. Is probably lucky to still be in the frame and will come under intense pressure from Martin Guptill for his test spot. Has the advantage of being technically sound on fast, bouncy pitches.

Grant Elliott

Has consistency to thank for him winning a contract for the first time since the 2010-2011 season. At 34 he's getting on a bit in cricketing terms, but has the head for a crisis and usually contributes well with bat and ball. Is the biggest winner along with Anderson.

Peter Fulton

Those two centuries against England at Eden Park were followed by a very poor return series. Fulton is a lot better technically than he was when he first came on the scene and his hard work for Canterbury is paying off. He's back on the contract list for the first time since 2008-2009 and deserves to retain an openers spot.

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Martin Guptill

Probably shouldn't get a test recall any time soon based on what was seen of him, or lack thereof, this season. His one-day form however is sublime and he's a locked-in selection at the top. All we need to do now is find an opening partner for him.

Tom Latham

Is a work in progress. Has done fairly well in his limited number of chances and looks to be pretty solid with the bat. His wicket-keeping is coming along, but isn't up to test level. He's more suited to Twenty20 and one-day cricket at this stage of his young career.

Bruce Martin

Has to be considered the best spinner in the country at the moment. Was effective in the home tests against England, but was missing in action during the return series. He can bat a bit too which helps. Has more than a decade of first-class experience, which will serve him well.

Mitchell McClenaghan

The bowling find of the summer. McClenaghan hasn't stopped taking wickets since his debut and is a superb athlete. Hesson needs to be careful not to rush him into the test side however. Another season or two at one-day and Twenty20 level and we might have someone really special on our hands for the longer form of the game.

Brendon McCullum

Is doing a pretty good job as captain, however his form with the blade hasn't been sparkling. A bit of form, especially in the test arena, will do wonders for his confidence and that of the rest of the batting order. Needs to start leading more by example.

Nathan McCullum

A wonderful tool to have in the limited-overs formats. Is getting better with every game and may well get a crack at test cricket if his form warrants it, or Martin gets injured.

Kyle Mills

Was simply awesome with the ball at the Champions Trophy. Well into his 30s, Mills is still on top of his game and thoroughly deserves all of the plaudits he's earned over his career. An automatic pick for Twenty20 and one-day cricket.

Colin Munro

Is a bit of an unknown quantity in some respects, but looks a pretty decent player. Need to see more of him over the upcoming season.

Hamish Rutherford

Had a wonderful debut international season which included a brilliant 100 against England at University Oval. Has the ability to hit out and work the ball around, making him the ideal partner for Fulton in the test arena and potentially for Guptill in the shorter forms. Is mature beyond his years.

Tim Southee

Continues to go from strength to strength, but did look tired during the Champion's Trophy. His test average continues to drop and he has to be considered world-class at the moment. While not a natural leader, he's doing a good job of spearheading a more than useful pace attack.

Ross Taylor

Looks to have got over the captaincy saga that threatened to de-rail his career and probably would have handled it better than he did. Was once again our most consistent performer with the bat this season (when playing) and is a vital cog in the top order. There doesn't seem to be any beef between the former skipper and McCullum, thankfully.

Neil Wagner

The tough South African took full advantage of Bracewell's misfortune and secured a place in the test team with some gutsy spells that yielded wickets. Seen as a test specialist, Wagner is only going to get better the more he plays.

B J Watling

Very good batsman and more than capable wicket-keeper who's tidy behind the stumps. Could be ideal at six in the test side, but Hesson probably wouldn't be too keen on throwing off the balance of the team. Has the ability to become one of New Zealand's finest keeper-batsmen.

Kane Williamson

Has unlimited ability that he's only just starting to realise. Is world-class when in top form and along with Taylor, is vital in the middle order. A little bit of consistency is all that's lacking, but when it does develop, look out.

Unlucky

Mark Gillespie and Ian Butler.

Undeserving

James Franklin surely blew his final chance with a poor England tour and Champions Trophy, while Andrew Ellis promised much but never really lived up to expectations. In saying that, injury didn't help matters.

All in all it's quite a predictable 20, with the likes of Daniel Flynn, Ellis, Kruger van Wyk, Rob Nicol, Tarun Nethula and Jeetan Patel all axed, while Daniel Vettori made himself unavailable and Chris Martin has retired.

In about three months when the Black Caps head to Bangladesh, we'll see if Hesson has played his cards right.

- South Canterbury

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