Henry Rounce: Why Blackcaps must stick with Colin Munro for World Cup

OPINION: While the country's being blasted by a sweltering heatwave, Blackcaps opener Colin Munro's found himself in a run-scoring Ice Age.

The burly left-hander's been frozen at the crease, and his scores have gone from hot and cold to just damn freezing.

So much so, that the New Zealand selectors wielded the axe in Thursday's fourth ODI against India, cutting him from the team and - surprisingly - promoting Henry Nicholls up the order.

It's a puzzling move and one that doesn’t make sense. While Munro is in a rut, he remains the best option for the Blackcaps at the World Cup. 

There's no denying his recent numbers are dodgy. He's averaging 15.33 in the current Indian series and he's averaged a lowly 27.83 over his last six one-dayers.

While an average of 40.33 across three ODIs against Sri Lanka was promising, it only serves as an outlier. Before then, he managed 14.00 in three games against Pakistan and 11.22 in five goes at England last year.

Munro is yet to score a century, with a high score of 87 and a disappointing batting average of 25.31.

All of which paints a fairly ragged and ugly picture - so why keep him?

First of all, Munro isn't the only one struggling. While he's conveniently viewed as the scapegoat, batting partner Martin Guptill is also putting up similarly grim numbers.

The right-hander is averaging 11.75 in the Indian series and 10.33 over his last six matches.

Rightly so, he's given more leeway due to his past performances and World Cup heroics, but Munro's not alone in battling his way through a lean patch.

He has become an easy target - in the same way Brendon McCullum was for playing in an outlandish and cavalier manner.

Take his recent LBW against India at the Mount, where he tried to play a switch hit. It was a bold play and one he'd pulled off before, but the dismissal only heightened the frustration around him.

Yet that's precisely how he plays.  

There is nothing aesthetically pleasing about watching Munro bat. It's a wild assortment of cross-bat swipes, slaps through the covers and apocalyptic heaves over cow-corner.

He bats the same way he chews his gum - destructively.

But through all the fire and brimstone of a Munro innings, he is a genuine matchwinner. He can you get off to a flyer, turn a Duckworth-Lewis rainstorm into a gentle drizzle and hit bowlers out of the attack.

Munro is a risk, a boom-or-bust investment, but there's too much value and too much talent to throw it all away.

Plus, there's no-one putting any pressure on behind him. No-one's knocking down the door or even laying a fingernail on it.

Wicketkeeper Tom Latham is seen as the logical choice to move up and open, but he's been tried there before with mixed results. Let's not forget a dreadful run in 2016/17, where he scored just 13 runs in six games.

Latham is a valuable asset in the middle order, helping to keep the scoreboard ticking over in the dry stages of an ODI and offering some of New Zealand’s best resistance against spin.

Nicholls looked very tidy in his unbeaten 30 yesterday, which included four boundaries and a six. That experiment has worked so far, but one match, chasing a comfortable total, is an incredibly small sample size.

It also seems bizarre to laden the middle-order batsman with additional roles as a part-time opener and part-time wicketkeeper. Other options include Will Young, George Worker and Hamish Rutherford.

Henry Nicholls in action for the Blackcaps
Henry Nicholls in action for the Blackcaps. Photo credit: Photosport

Young spent time opening the batting and playing at number three in the New Zealand 'A' series against India, but it would be a massive call to pick him so late in the piece. If he was an option, he should have played against India.

Worker has a decent record across an irregular spate of ODIs - he's played 10 and averaged 34, including three half-centuries. His strike rate of 71.76 isn’t ideal though.

And Rutherford hasn't played an ODI since October 2013, which basically gives you all the information you need about his chances.

So the gameplan is simple - keep the faith with Munro. The upcoming T20 series against India is a good chance for him to find some freedom in a three-game campaign that means absolutely nothing.

A trio of ODIs against Bangladesh will follow, providing another opportunity for him to hit that one knock that could get him back on track.

Then there’s the World Cup in England and Wales. You don't normally head to the UK to thaw out, but the Blackcaps are hoping Munro's Ice Age will have melted by the time he arrives.

Henry Rounce is a Newshub sports reporter.