You are not permitted to download, save or email this image. Visit image gallery to purchase the image.
The Black Caps' 3-0 ODI series sweep of Sri Lanka produced several stellar performances, including from players on the fringes of the potential World Cup squad.
Stead knows that he's going to have to make some tough calls when it's time to name that squad, but is looking forward to the dilemmas.
"That's good. We've still got to work out some places for the future around the World Cup spots – it doesn't take rocket science to figure out what those probable places are. I've been really pleased on the whole with those who have come in and contributed and I hope they make it as hard as they can for us."
Jimmy Neesham perhaps made the biggest jump into World Cup contention, having leapt up the all-rounder pecking order on his return from 18 months in the international wilderness.
He blasted 34 runs in an over as part of a remarkable 47 off 13 in the first ODI, also taking 3-38 with the ball, and backed it up with 64 off 37 balls and two wickets in the second match.
Yesterday, he again contributed to another victory, hitting an unbeaten 12 off six balls at the end of the Black Caps' 364-4, before taking the key wicket of Niroshan Dickwella in his five overs.
Stead was pleased with Neesham's contributions across the board.
"With bat and ball I've been really happy with what I've seen with Jimmy – he's bowled with good pace, he's took some key wickets for us as well. I think we always knew he had the ability to do that, and my challenge to Jimmy right through was the ability to back it up, game after game after game. If he can do that, then he's got the world in front of him – he could be a genuine threat to all teams. That's what I've been really pleased about."
Neesham was meant to split playing time with Doug Bracewell in the Sri Lankan series, but his form made it impossible for Stead to leave him out of the side.
"It was the plan to share a bit of game time but Kane [Williamson] and I spoke about it as well and after James did what he did, it was very hard – and would send the wrong message to him – to leave him out after that, and that's why he played all three games. It's international sport – it's not everyone gets a go every time - and Doug understands that as well."
However, Neesham suffered a grade one hamstring injury during Sri Lanka's innings, and will miss tomorrow's Twenty20 clash against the same opposition at Eden Park.
The Black Caps will be hoping the 28-year-old is fit for the one-day series against India, starting on January 23 in Napier, but there could be several all-rounders back in the selection mix, with Corey Anderson and Mitchell Santner having returned to domestic cricket with Northern Districts, and Colin de Grandhomme fresh and fit after being rested for the Sri Lankan series.
All four, as well as Bracewell, should get a chance in the final eight ODIs before the World Cup, with Stead wanting to take several all-rounders in the World Cup squad.
"There's no doubt in my mind that all-rounders, whether it be spin or pace bowling all-rounders, will help, because it will help balance both batting and bowling."
Stead excepting to name a larger squad for the five-match Indian ODI series, potentially to accommodate the returns of the likes of Santner and de Grandhomme, while wicketkeeper Tom Latham is also set to return after being rested.
- Niall Anderson