Cricket: Blackcaps door not shut on Henry Nicholls despite being dropped for South Africa series

Henry Nicholls' test career is not over, despite his non-selection to face South Africa next month.  

In a move that could be considered by many to be a surprise, 32-year-old Nicholls has been left out of New Zealand's 14-man squad to face the Proteas.  

Instead, breakout World Cup star Rachin Ravindra has been named to play in the middle order, despite previously specialising as an opening batter.  

In some circles, the move to drop Nicholls could be considered overdue.

Henry Nicholls celebrates his double-century against Sri Lanka.
Henry Nicholls celebrates his double-century against Sri Lanka. Photo credit: Photosport

Despite a career test batting average of 37.16, Nicholls' numbers since the retirement of Ross Taylor make for mixed reading.  

In 12 tests, the left-hander has scored 580 runs at an average of 29, albeit with a career-best of 200 not out against Sri Lanka at the end of the 2023 home summer.   

But the rise of players like Ravindra, Daryl Mitchell and Glenn Phillips as all-format players - as opposed to Nicholls being a frontline test player - has seen the veteran fall out of favour.  

"It's a very tough decision, Henry has been a big part of the test squad for 56 tests," said coach Gary Stead.  

"Whenever you leave a player out, it weighs heavy with you. It's a tough decision to make.  

"But we felt it's time for Rachin, it's time for him in test cricket. We know the talent he is.   

"We feel like he'll make a good fist of it now at this stage of his career."  

While he might not have consistently produced the numbers of Taylor, Kane Williamson, Devon Conway or Tom Latham as his contemporaries, Nicholls' achievements in test cricket are no mean feat.  

With nine centuries, Nicholls has reached triple figures the same number of times as Stephen Fleming, arguably the most elegant batter New Zealand has ever produced.


Henry Nicholls during New Zealand's World Test Championship victory.
Henry Nicholls during New Zealand's World Test Championship victory. Photo credit: Photosport

However, while Fleming's nine hundreds came in 189 innings, Nicholls' have come in only 87.  

On the flip side of that, only one of Nicholls' centuries have come away from home, while four of them have come against Bangladesh, Sri Lanka (two) and the West Indies.   

His nine centuries also place him ahead of the likes of Glenn Turner (seven), Andrew Jones (seven), Bert Sutcliffe (five) among those to have passed three figures for the Blackcaps. 

Nicholls has also been part of some of the most celebrated moments in the game in Aotearoa, namely as a member of the XI which won the World Test Championship in 2021.  

And given his service to New Zealand over a long period of time, Stead took no pleasure in telling Nicholls he'd be sitting out of this series.   

"It was a tough conversation," he continued. "He's a great person. He always does the little things really well which you guys would never see.  

"That's what makes it hard in a decision like this.

"His currency is weight of runs. To do that in domestic cricket and show that he is the next person in line is still really possible to do.

"He's still really young in his career - he's only early 30s - we definitely don't see this as the end for him.

"It's definitely a setback, but there's no reason why he can't make it back again."

Now, though, Nicholls' challenge will be to return to Canterbury in the Plunket Shield, and make sure he gives selectors no reason to overlook him again, notably with Australia still to tour New Zealand later this summer.   

"The message to Henry is to go back, dominate domestic cricket and show that he's the next best in line.  

"That's ultimately all he can do now. His currency is runs, and the more he gets, the better it is for him."