Brad Lewis: What Blackcaps test side should look like in 12 months

OPINION: Humiliation at the hands of a ruthless Australian side has left question marks over the Blackcaps test side that weren't evident just a month ago.

A stellar run of success since a 1-0 series loss to South Africa in 2017 had propelled Kane Williamson's side to No.2 in world rankings.

But dive a little deeper and you'll find that New Zealand avoided India, South Africa and Australia - teams the Blackcaps have traditionally struggled against in the red ball discipline - in those two years.

So how can this side get back on track?

Later this month, India looms in a make-or-break series for several players that have performed so admirably in white.

Team balance should be the selectors' focus over the next 12 months, as New Zealand try to put their trans-Tasman misery behind them. 

An all-rounder that can bat at No.6 must be found, or the Blackcaps must employ six batsman, a wicketkeeper and four bowlers.

History's best test sides have been based around that formula - the West Indies from the 1980s, Australia's all-conquering teams under Mark Taylor and Steve Waugh, even Virat Kohli's current Indian side.

There is no place for covering deficiencies in a world-class test match side, and that's what the likes of Colin de Grandhomme and Mitchell Santner have been selected for.

If neither of those two are good enough to bat in the top six, they shouldn't be in the XI. 

Before a near 12-month break from test cricket, the brains trust have the upcoming Indian series to start to assemble a side that can challenge for a spot in the 2021 world test championship final.

Here's what the Blackcaps test side could/should look like in 12 months... 

Tom Latham (vc)
Statistically, New Zealand's best-ever test opener and a probable future captain. He is an automatic selection.

Glenn Phillips 

Glenn Phillips in action at the SCG
Glenn Phillips in action at the SCG Photo credit: Getty

Had a ton of luck against Australia, but showed enough to suggest he will become a very good test player. Could be the long term wicketkeeper, but for now, he fills the void.

Kane Williamson (c)
Talk of his downfall is mind-numbing. Still a top-three batsman on the planet, until Marnus Labuschagne proves he can score big runs outside Australia. 

Ross Taylor 
Nearing the end of a sublime career, but as long as his form doesn't fall off a cliff, he keeps his spot. 

Henry Nicholls 
Under pressure to perform now, given he hasn't passed 50 since a stellar century against Sri Lanka nine innings ago. Has runs on the board, but India looms as his D-Day. 

Will Young 
The long-term replacement for Taylor at No.4 and would have made his debut against Bangladesh a year ago, if not for the tragic events in Christchurch. His time has come. 

Tom Blundell

Tom Blundell in action
Tom Blundell in action Photo credit: Getty

Dropping BJ Watling seems absurd, but at 34, this upcoming Indian series should be his last. Watling has also struggled with the bat against the high-quality attacks of Australia (22.21) and India (25.50). 

Blundell has two test centuries in four tests and is quality gloveman. The change is imminent. 

Neil Wagner 
Another ageing member of the side, but he has the fitness of a 20-year-old, and you can imagine Wagner chucking down bouncers for another 3-4 years. Automatic selection. 

Lockie Ferguson 
Every top test side has a 140kph-plus quick bowler. England have Archer and Wood, South Africa have Rabada, Pakistan have several, as do Australia, while India have Juspret Bumrah, who decimated Australia a year ago. 

If fit, Ferguson must play. 

Trent Boult 
'Lovely Trenty' is New Zealand's best since Sir Richard Hadlee, so expect the left-armer to be back to his best when he is 100 percent. 

Ajaz Patel 

Ajaz Patel celebrates a test wicket
Ajaz Patel celebrates a test wicket Photo credit: Getty

The Blackcaps must develop and stick with a spinner, and Patel is the obvious choice. The leading wicket-taker in domestic cricket in the last six years, he has also performed well at test level. 

His continued non-selection is puzzling. 

Close 

Devon Conway 
The South African becomes available for selection in September and given his domestic record, he goes close to making this side. Henry Nicholls beware.

Jimmy Neesham

James Neesham is a selection certainty in ODI's for New Zealand
James Neesham is a selection certainty in ODI's for New Zealand Photo credit: Getty

Probably the most obvious answer for a No.6 that can bowl, but must prove he can consistently score runs in red-ball cricket. Would only need to bowl 10-15 overs a day - a job he is more than capable of. 

Kyle Jamieson 
On reflection, he should have been given the nod in Sydney, ahead of Matt Henry. Why not find out what you have against the scariest batting lineup in world cricket? 

First cab off the rank, if a paceman goes down. 

Thanks for your service 

Tim Southee
Performed well in Australia, but most of his success came when Australian tailenders were chasing runs. Doesn't make the team ahead of Boult or Wagner, so he's now surplus to requirements.

BJ Watling
Read Tom Blundell.

Jeet Raval  
Just over a year ago, Raval scored a breakthrough test ton. Unfortunately, he's barely cracked 100 runs in 12 innings since. 

Colin de Grandhomme 

Colin de Grandhomme in action
Colin de Grandhomme in action Photo credit: Photosport

Batted well in both innings at Sydney, but his dismissals were criminal and extremely frustrating. His bowling isn't good enough to keep him in the test side and he's not one of the top six batters in the country.

Matt Henry 
Averages a touch over 50 runs with the ball though 15 tests - not good enough. Still a key role to play in white-ball cricket, but his test career has been a disappointment. 

Will Somerville 
Looks a decent off-spinner, but didn't perform to his best at the Sydney Cricket Ground. At 35, it's hard to see him as a long-term option beyond this summer. 

On the outside, looking in

Mitchell Santner 

Mitchell Santner in action
Mitchell Santner in action Photo credit: Photosport

A white-ball certainty, Santner has plenty of potential, but needs to work on his accuracy. Pressure builds success for spin bowlers in test cricket and Santner gives away a boundary ball an over. 

Could become the all-round option at No.6, if he works on his batting. 

Todd Astle 
Bowled well in patches at Sydney and probably should have played in Perth. Has a small sample size to work with, but averaging 50-plus runs with the ball in four tests isn't encouraging. 

Daryl Mitchell 
Another potential No.6 option, who performed very well in his test debut against England. Just not convinced he is good enough in either department to keep others out. 

Question mark?

Ish Sodhi 
Last played a test in Sri Lanka six months ago, but struggled to make an impact. He is still the biggest turner in the country and has a world-class googly. 

Brad Lewis is a Newshub online sports producer

 

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