Cricket: Blackcaps coach Gary Stead defends underfire Finn Allen as top-order struggles continue

Blackcaps coach Gary Stead has gone into bat for underfire opener Finn Allen, after his modest returns at the top of the New Zealand order.

Backed as a first-choice opening batter in white-ball formats, Allen has so far struggled to fill the shoes of predecessor Martin Guptill.

In 10 one-day internationals dating back to last September - when Allen was picked over Guptill in a dead rubber against Australia - the rookie has scored 174 runs in nine innings at an average just shy of 20, with only one score above 50.

Meanwhile, in 15 Twenty20 Internationals, Allen, 23, has scored 269 runs at an average of just under 18, again only registering one half-century.

The desire for an aggressive opener isn't new in international cricket, but Allen's struggles, coupled with an apparent unwillingness to change his approach, has seen his place in the side come under scrutiny.

And with a 50-over World Cup in India this year, the Blackcaps are quickly reaching the point where Allen will need to be either produce or be replaced in the lead-up to the tournament.

Allen's struggles aren't helped by a groundswell of support for Guptill, arguably New Zealand's greatest white-ball batter and the only Blackcap to score a double-century in ODI cricket.

Stead insists the style of play and potential freedom Allen brings to the side is worth persisting with.

"He was a little bit mixed at times and Finn's the first to admit it wasn't the volume of runs he got," said Stead. "But from our point of view, he still provides us that carefree nature, where he can go out and destroy a team at the start of the innings.

"Whether that's in ODI cricket or T20 cricket, it allows you to play a different style.

Finn Allen after being dismissed.
Finn Allen after being dismissed. Photo credit: Photosport

"We'll review all players and their performances, as we do after every tour, but we haven't done that yet."

Allen will return to domestic cricket for Wellington for the rest of the summer, before travelling to India for the 2023 Indian Premier League, where he's contracted to Royal Challengers Bangalore.

The dates for the 2023 IPL season are yet to be confirmed, meaning Allen may also feature for the Blackcaps in their ODI and T20 series against Sri Lanka to end the home summer.