Blunting opposition attacks may not be the best use of
Black Caps skipper Brendon McCullum's attacking talents.
Forget any thoughts of former test opener BJ Watling
going back up the New Zealand test batting order.
But there could be a batting positional change for captain
Brendon McCullum when England arrive for their ANZ
international series next month.
New Zealand coach Mike Hesson firmly scotched any suggestion
of returning wicketkeeper Watling to the opening spot against
Watling, who made his test debut as an opener, was New
Zealand's most consistent batsman against South Africa, with
successive scores of 42, 63 and 63 in the two tests, batting
at No 6.
He looked comfortable in the role and was technically adept
against the high-calibre South African attack.
One change among several being raised for the England series
is the promotion of Wellington's former Australian ODI
wicketkeeper Luke Ronchi, enabling Watling to move back to
Hesson's not having any of it.
''BJ Watling has been shuffled around a lot. His performances
at the top of the order against the new ball haven't been as
good as lower down.
''He had a very good test series (against South Africa) and
we won't want to be tinkering with that."
Ronchi became eligible for New Zealand on January 13, having
been born in Dannevirke but having to sit out four years
since his Australian appearances. His fans will have to wait.
Hesson rated Watling's wicketkeeping highly, knows he's
working on improving aspects of his glovework.
''His keeping is going nicely. He's done everything that's
been asked of him," Hesson said.
That's bad news for Ronchi's backers as McCullum has a lock
on the two limited-overs versions of the game.
''Luke's a very good wicketkeeper and from a batting point of
view has performed well in the long form. Luke's asking us
''He'll be involved in New Zealand XI games against England
and that'll be a really good opportunity for us to gauge
where he's at."
There had been a plan for McCullum to bat in the No 4 spot
vacated for the South African tour by Ross Taylor. However
Peter Fulton's leg injury before the first test forced
McCullum back to the top of the order.
Hesson praised his determination but doubts it is the best
use of McCullum's attacking talents.
''I don't think Brendon's game is suited to blunting the
attack, but he applied himself. I don't think that's the role
he's going to play best for this team," he said.
Hesson acknowledged New Zealand had been ''beaten up" for the
last two weeks, which would have an affect on the players'
And he knows changes must be made for England. However he,
like McCullum a day earlier, stressed they don't want to dump
a group of players without giving them a chance to build on
the lessons from South Africa.
''We want to make those decisions after a decent period of
reflection rather than just emotion," Hesson said.
However the top order, in which Martin Guptill has also had
big problems before his 48 in the second test at Port
Elizabeth, is an area under the microsope.
''It's finding that balance between giving players confidence
in selection and backing them during a period of time. You
can do that as long as we're seeing improvements.
''But if people are applying themselves and showing character
then we'll show faith in them. If you keep chopping and
changing we'll go around in circles."
Hesson said the new few rounds of Plunket Shield matches
would be important for players on the fringe of forcing their
way in. Also those who did not fare well against South Africa
need to shape up for their provinces.
New Zealand head for Paarl on Wednesday for the start of the
three ODI games.
Several changes have been made to the squad, with Rob Nichol,
Jimmy Neesham, Nathan McCullum, Ronnie Hira, Grant Elliott
and Kyle Mills having arrived this week.
- David Leggat