As Wellington and Auckland left Eden Park Outer Oval yesterday, concluding the New Zealand first-class season, one player more than the others would have been wondering if he’d done enough to grab one of 20 seats on a plane to England.
Selectors Gary Stead and Gavin Larsen will tomorrow name their 20-man squad for the two-test tour of England in June. That squad will be trimmed to 15 for the World Test Championship final in Southampton from June 18.
While most of the 20 will be predictable and draw on players used this summer, the chatter is increasing that Wellington youngster Rachin Ravindra will claim one of the coveted spots.
Ravindra, who missed time this season with a dislocated shoulder, had a quiet match with the bat, scoring just four and eight, but it is the other string to his bow that most excites those in power.
The selectors want to have a spinner who can bat in the top six and despite a slow start to his career with the ball, they believe Ravindra can fulfil that role.
He took six wickets for the match with his left-arm orthodox and played a pivotal role in preventing Auckland achieving near certain victory in the final 15 minutes as he had Will Somerville (59) caught in the deep and tied down Will O’Donnell (137 not out) as the two teams played out a thrilling draw.
Across 25 first –class matches Ravindra averages 40 with the bat with three centuries and close to an unflattering 70 with the ball, though that figure does not indicate how quickly he has developed.
While orthodox spinners tend to play a holding role in New Zealand conditions, Ravindra gives the ball a genuine rip. As he develops more ring craft, this should translate into wickets.
The 21-year-old scored a century against Northern Districts in the penultimate Plunket Shield round and caught the eye with a double of 144 not out and 6-89 against West Indies A in Nelson.
In other points of intrigue, Colin de Grandhomme and Ross Taylor will be subject to a fitness test with both certainties for selection if passed fit.
Assuming the incumbent squad from the second test against Pakistan at Hagley Oval is selected, that gives you a base of Tom Latham, Tom Blundell, Kane Williamson, Ross Taylor, Henry Nicholls, BJ Watling, Daryl Mitchell, Kyle Jamieson, Tim Southee, Matt Henry and Trent Boult. Put de Grandhomme, Neil Wagner (who missed that test through injury), Mitchell Santner, Devon Conway, and Will Young into that mix and Stead has four spots to play around with.
If De Grandhomme fails his test, Doug Bracewell might be next cab off the rank in terms of a bowling-first allrounder.
Stead will want at least one frontline spinner in case they’re faced with a turning track in Southampton, with the luckless Ajaz Patel in prime position. Glenn Phillips and Ravindra are both batsmen who can bowl and will come under close scrutiny.
Given that both Jamieson and Boult could be late arrivals due to IPL commitments, the selectors are likely to want to have swing-bowling cover as Henry is predominantly seam up.
Names like Ed Nuttall and Jacob Duffy could enter calculations under this scenario, while players like Lockie Ferguson and Adam Milne – who have few red ball overs under their belts – will be in England for The 100.
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