Blackcaps vs India: Ken Rutherford calls for change ahead of Cricket World Cup

The time for change may have passed the Blackcaps brains trust by, with the Cricket World Cup opener against Sri Lanka fast approaching.

New Zealand have just five more ODI's before the tournament begins in England in June. The two dead-rubber matches against India will be followed by a three-match series against Bangladesh in February.

Gavin Larsen and his selection cohorts, including coach Gary Stead, have made two changes for the trips to Hamilton and Wellington, with Jimmy Neesham and Todd Astle replacing Ish Sodhi and Doug Bracewell.

But former national skipper Ken Rutherford believes there are more pressing concerns. Martin Guptill and Colin Munro have scored just 79 runs between them in the first three games, piling immense pressure on the star-studded middle order of Kane Williamson, Ross Taylor and Tom Latham.

Munro's position, in particular, is under serious threat, with the left-hander only averaging 22 in the last 18 months, passing 50 just twice.

Rutherford is cautious to throw too much criticism in Munro's direction, given it's unclear what the Aucklander's role is.

"If he is being asked to be a bit of a basher, and have a crack up front and wield the willow, then you have to expect he is going to fail more often than not," Rutherford told Newshub.

"But if he is being asked to play the role of a batsman, then he is probably not the right guy. You need a more conventional type of batsmen, like a Tom Latham or a Will Young.

"The question needs to be asked of Kane Williamson, Gavin Larsen and Gary Stead: 'What is the role you are asking Colin Munro to play?'

"If that role is to score quickly, yes, it isn't coming off for him, but he is doing his best and he is trying to fulfil that role."

Ken Rutherford.
Ken Rutherford. Photo credit: Newshub.

Rutherford thinks that change should have come for these final two games against the quality opposition that India provides.

With Latham under intense pressure to score runs and keep wicket, Rutherford would like to see the selectors make the tough call and shift the Cantabrian to the top of the order, allowing a full-time wicket-keeper to flesh out the middle-to-lower order.

"I'm not convinced the balance of the side is quite right," Rutherford says. "There are two key areas that need to be looked at. 

"Firstly, the way we go about our first 10-15 overs with the bat. Our two kingpins [Williamson and Taylor] are being asked to do too much, coming in too soon against the new-ball bowlers.

"The other area for mine is wicket-keeping.

"Tom Latham is a terrific player and not a bad keeper, but that is not his real go. He has a terrific record opening the batting, averaging close to 40.

"He is doing okay in the middle order, but asking him to don the gloves through a high-pressure World Cup is a little too much.

"They have tried [Tim] Seifert and Tom Blundell in recent years. I think it is time to go back to one of those two and stick with him for the World Cup."

Coach Gary Stead has overseen two test series wins over Pakistan and Sri Lanka since taking over from Mike Hesson late last year.

But New Zealand's form in the short game has led Rutherford to question Stead's control of the team. Despite a series sweep of Sri Lanka, there were some worrying signs with death bowling and the opening partnership.

Rutherford believes Stead needs to make a tough selection call and distance himself from his predecessor's philosophies.

"There is no discernible difference between this side and a side Mike Hesson would have picked," Rutherford notes.

"Latham was asked to bat five and keep wicket under Hesson's watch, and likewise Colin Munro was turned into an opener.

"Nothing has really changed. My point around Gary Stead is that he has had six or so months in charge and things are going slightly off the road, at least in the ODI form.

"You have to sometimes make a tough call to right the balance somewhat and I think all we are doing at the moment is tinkering.

"I'm not sure we have seen a Gary Stead stamp on this team yet."

New Zealand will look to get their first win of the Indian series in Hamilton on Thursday.


Join us at 3pm Thursday for live updates of the fourth Blackcaps vs India ODI at Hamilton.