Risk too great to not take Blundell

Gavin Larsen. Photo: Getty Images
Gavin Larsen. Photo: Getty Images
Picking a player with no ODI experience in their Cricket World Cup squad might seem like a gamble.

But for the Black Caps selectors, there was a much bigger risk to be concerned about.

The selection of back-up wicketkeeper Tom Blundell - uncapped at ODI level and having played just a solitary one-day game since February 2018 – was the most contentious selection of the 15-man squad revealed this morning.

Blundell edged out the likes of Tim Seifert and BJ Watling for the role of backing up Tom Latham, with the Black Caps selection panel deciding to opt for a specialist back-up, instead of a part-time option like Henry Nicholls, which would have opened up another spot for increased batting or bowling depth.

However, Black Caps selector Gavin Larsen explained that they simply weren't willing to risk having an inexperienced gloveman as Latham's back-up.

"We just felt on balance that when we look at the risks associated with that, we just weren't willing to take that risk. If Tom Latham picks up a niggle and is out for a couple of weeks and isn't invalided out of the tournament, we figured it could be three or four games on the bounce where Henry Nicholls would have had to take the gloves. We felt that was an unfair burden to put on him, he's an absolute gold nugget for us in that batting order now," Larsen told Daniel McHardy on Radio Sport.

Understandable logic, sure, but where many had quibbles came in the form of Seifert, who had displayed his potential with the bat with two blistering knocks in the Twenty20 format against India. Considering Blundell's uninspiring domestic one-day batting record – an average of 23.8 at a strike rate of 78.9 – Seifert made a strong case to be included not only as wicketkeeping cover, but as batting cover - being capable of playing all throughout the order.

Larsen though again pointed out a major risk in selecting Seifert, arguing that his skills with the gloves weren't up to ODI standard yet.

"We boiled it down, in this particular set of circumstances, to glovework - Tim's still got to work a bit more on his wicketkeeping. We believe his wicketkeeping is good enough to get through in T20 cricket, but at this stage we think it's just too big a risk in 50 over cricket.

"[Blundell] hasn't played much List A cricket but we back him 100%, we think he's a special commodity, he's got an X-Factor about him. We believe he's got a hell of a lot to offer this World Cup squad."

The other close call for the selectors came with Ish Sodhi edging out Todd Astle for the second spinning spot behind Mitchell Santner.

Larsen said it was a lengthy debate, but explained why Sodhi got the edge.

"We solicited a lot of advice from cricket people who we respect around the country. We've given the nod to Ish and primarily what its boiled down to is Ish has got really good international experience, he's played in the hotbed of the Indian Premier League, and he understands that side of the international game.

"That's an asset, but probably more importantly, we asked ourselves who was more likely to perform a match-winning role, bowling in an attacking fashion during the middle of the innings. That's where we gave the final nod to Ish."

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