Pakistan travel to New Zealand knowing it would be folly to underestimate the World Cup runners up and they will now have to contend with destructive opener Martin Guptill, who has been included in the 13-man squad after missing their last series against the West Indies.
Guptill has been one of New Zealand’s best performers for nearly a decade now but he was not missed much in the last series, with incoming rookie George Worker impressing with his two half-centuries in three games.
“It’s tough on George missing out, but he’ll continue to push for selection and will get further opportunities down the road,” New Zealand’s national selector Gavin Larsen was quoted as saying by ESPNcricinfo. “Martin is a proven world-class player, so we’re naturally thrilled to have him back in the mix. He and Colin [Munro] have been strong for us at the top of the order.”
The Kiwis may have an enviable selection headache when it comes to the batsmen at the top of the innings — boasting a unique and devastating combination of batsmen equally adept at employing brute force and canny manipulation of the field — but all-rounder Colin de Grandhomme will be missing for the opening two games.
While Grandhomme is expected to return for the final three games, New Zealand have gone with two spin all-rounders in his stead as Mitchell Santner is joined by Todd Astle in the squad.
Astle, Larsen revealed, makes his way into the squad due to his all-round performances against the West Indies.
“Todd made the most of his opportunity against the West Indies and made a strong contribution with both bat and ball,” he said.
Santner, on the other hand, has become a mainstay in this New Zealand side and is almost certain of starting the five-match series’ first game at Wellington on January 9.
“Mitchell has been one of our most consistent white-ball bowlers for a long time now, as can be seen by him being ranked in the top 10 ODI bowlers in the world,” added Larsen.
However, it would be interesting to see whether New Zealand opt for a spin-heavy attack and play both all-rounders or whether Santner and Astle compete for one spot between them.
Pakistan’s prowess against spinners and their well-documented difficulties against the short-pitched stuff would mean that New Zealand are more likely to go with a pace-oriented attack but Larsen refused to rule out the possibility of playing two spinners.
“Conditions will dictate whether they play in the same eleven, but it’s certainly not out of the question,” he said.