South Africa in New Zealand 2016-17 March 5, 2017

Keeping conundrum tops New Zealand's questions

Five things that New Zealand need to ponder before the Champions Trophy in England
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New Zealand pushed the world's No. 1 ODI side close over the five-match series, but ultimately two batting collapses cost them. They have a chance for some fine-tuning before the Champions Trophy when they play a tri-series in Ireland during May, albeit with a weakened squad due to the IPL. Coach Mike Hesson said: "You'd love to go into a world event having all the answers but we have a couple to tick off." Is it just a couple, or are there more?

Tom Latham's position in the side has an impact on multiple areas © Getty Images

Who partners Guptill?

A number of New Zealand's quandaries are inter-related (see points 2 and 5 below) but somebody needs to walk out with Martin Guptill. Tom Latham had become a regular partner over the previous 18 months until a run of six single-figure scores (including three ducks) meant that Dean Brownlie, who had been Guptill's injury replacement, usurped him. Brownlie played some fighting innings, especially his 63 against Australia, but tailed off against South Africa. One route is to return to Latham purely as an opening batsman, but more on that to come.

What Hesson said: "There won't be a huge change for the Champions Trophy; we've won 10 out of 13 games [this season] against some good sides. We've had a couple of aberrations but the majority of our squad will be the same.

New Zealand persist with Luke Ronchi despite his struggles with the bat © Getty Images

The gloves are off

A New Zealand wicketkeeper hasn't scored an ODI fifty in 42 innings. That's a long time between drinks, or bat-raising. It appears unlikely they will depart from either Latham or Luke Ronchi, but for the balance of the side they desperately need the keeper to score runs. Kane Williamson said how it's a major advantage to have the gloveman in the top five so there is the knock-on effect to the middle order and the position of Neil Broom. The faith in the two current options would appear to rule out a late change to the 26-year Tom Blundell from Wellington.

What Hesson said: "I've been delighted with the wicketkeeping of both, but no doubt both are short of runs and that's something Tom and Luke are well aware of, probably more than anyone. It's long ago that Tom was a really good performer for us at the top of the order. We know they are high quality players but have had a tough period."

Jeetan Patel may have put himself ahead of Ish Sodhi for the Champions Trophy © AFP

Offie or leggie (or both)

Spin played a far bigger role against South Africa than was expected. Mitchell Santner was ever-present, and is the No. 1 man, but Ish Sodhi and Jeetan Patel shared the second role. Both impressed, but three specialist spinners in a 15-man squad for a tournament in England in June could be overkill. New Zealand may need to decide if they have faith in Sodhi or whether the experience of Patel - and the fact he spins the ball the other way - tips the scales in his favour. There is also Patel's wealth of English county experience to factor in. New Zealand's opening match is against Australia at Edgbaston where Patel is based with Warwickshire.

What Hesson said: "When Jeets came in against Bangladesh he did an equally good job. We are lucky that we have three very good spinners at the momen, and Todd Astle as well, who is a very good performer. It's something in New Zealand cricket that we haven't had much of, so it's a nice problem."

Lockie Ferguson certainly has pace but may be too raw for the Champions Trophy © AFP

Pace reserves

Lockie Ferguson nipped ahead of Matt Henry in the pecking order this season and showed glimpses of what his pace can achieve, although he was expensive with an economy rate of 6.46 from his seven matches. The back-up to Tim Southee and Trent Boult in England will be important. It could yet be that Adam Milne and Mitchell McClenaghan, who were white-ball regulars before injury, are brought back into the frame although all the six names mentioned here are IPL-bound players who have permission to remain with their franchises while they are in the tournament and, thus, won't be in Ireland.

What Hesson said: "Fortunately for those guys, our main six seamers are all picked up at the IPL, so it presents a chance to look at a few young guys."

Colin de Grandhomme was effective with bat and ball against South Africa © Getty Images

How many allrounders

If you include Ronchi, New Zealand ended the series against South Africa with allrounders occupying Nos. 5 to 8 in the order. Again, the keeping role is crucial in how this pans out going forward, but both James Neesham and Colin de Grandhomme, who has been given a finishing role at No. 8, appear to be inked in for the Champions Trophy. De Grandhomme is likelier to be able to complete his full ten overs - as he did very effectively in Wellington - although Neesham bowled better as the series progressed.

What Hesson said: "The allrounders give us balance and depth; I thought Mitch Santner was very good with the ball. Neesham and de Grandhomme grew in confidence and, quite rightly, through performances."

Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • kevin on March 7, 2017, 3:33 GMT

    Some very astute comments below. I can't see any point reinstating Latham as an opener only. Having him and Ronchi in the same team gives us two top order batsmen who are totally out of form. Phillips looked totally out of his depth in the one chance he was given. Certainly a prospect for the future, but not just yet. No obvious answer to the opener/keeper conundrum sadly. I would happily drop Southee; out of form with the ball and totally irresponsible in his batting. It is a pity Worker and Bruce haven't been given more chances. The batting order is all wrong; both Ronchi and Santner are batting too high.

  • muntas4920248 on March 6, 2017, 16:15 GMT

    Broom,bwonlie should replace by Colin Munro in champions trophy squad

  • B-Radical81 on March 6, 2017, 8:02 GMT

    Latham is in a slump (6-7 games, but good in india), Ronch is just awful and has been for a couple of years - his glove work is not that outstanding that his batting shouldnt matter. Take Blundell and Phillips and give them a chance. Keep milne and fergusson away, henry will be far better on english wickets as will mcCleneghan and both are better wicket takers. Patel over Sohdi for now, but wouldnt have an issue with Shodi over santner cause he doesnt add anything with bat and I dont class him as an all rounder

  • jared on March 6, 2017, 5:45 GMT

    You could say all the answers hesson was looking for at the start of the season still havnt been answered by the end of the season, if you ask me odi wickets are almost all flat with the odd spicy one here and there but as a whole they're flat so two specialist spinners are a must. As for a keeper bat that plays in the top 5, I know I harp on a bit about him but Phillips is the man for the job long term, so just get him in now, he compliments guptill well and will allow hesson to play the power hitters he wants down the order. Playing Phillips solves two headaches, who opens and who keeps, it just makes sense. CT xi 1.guptill 2.Phillips 3.williamson 4.Taylor 5.worker 6.neesham 7.Anderson 8.santner 9.sodhi 10.Milne 11.boult , 4 seamers with raw pace, swing, seam and change up options covered and 4 spin options, with leg spin left arm orthodox and off spin options covered and batting depth with a pretty handy bat in Milne at 10, its a bit different but looks a powerful side.

  • Ant on March 6, 2017, 5:37 GMT

    Neither Ronchi nor Latham are the ODi answer and the selectors have to cop it sweet. They have had ample home tours against the likes of SL and BD to blood keepers but Ronchi was given preference time and time and time again. There is no short term solution and this may take well over a year until selectors finally turn to newcomers - Bruce/Blundell/Seifert/Phillips. Latham is only an ODI player in the subcontinent

  • Wrik on March 6, 2017, 5:20 GMT

    My NZ team is: 1.Guptill 2.Worker 3.Williamson (c) 4.Taylor 5.Bruce 6.De Grandhomme 7.Blundell (wk) 8.Santner 9.Henry 10.Sodhi 11.Boult.

    James. Nes, Patel, Henry.Nic and Tim Southee as backup. Keep Tom Latham in tests and Luke. Ronchi well away from our limited overs side he has failed so many times yet still plays.

  • P on March 6, 2017, 4:18 GMT

    Basically Hesson doesn't know what he is talking about, you can justify Ronchi selection in the side, his batting average is less than Boult since 2015. If you have any sense you would bring in Worker, Bruce and another WK, being Bundell or Phillips.

  • Pratik on March 6, 2017, 2:33 GMT

    Can't believe Hesson is again turning a blind eye to what happened in this series pretending nothing went wrong. 3-2 series defeat doesn't underline how bad NZ were except for individual brilliance. They were decimated in 2 games where the big 3 failed and they collapsed. A guy who had an average worse than no.10/11 of other teams in 32 games over period of 2 years is batting at #5. The allrounders gives the team balance and depth?? Yes, we saw that balance and depth they provide when they top order failed. We couldn't cross 150 in 2 games in a good surface. Santner bowls well. That's it. He neither threatens with ball or does anything with bat. 30+ games and no match winning performance. So called all rounders are just mediocre cricketers. Ronchi, please do cricketing world a favor and retire if you have any self respect and self dignity.

  • Bryce on March 6, 2017, 1:25 GMT

    Please if nothing else bring Worker in for Brownlie

  • Yasein on March 6, 2017, 1:15 GMT

    We can select any type of team we want to select but most our problems would be alleviated if Kane realized how important his wicket is and that hell be required to score big against Australia and England in this CT. (and this is coming from someone that wants radical change in the nz cricket management and team.)

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