Daniel Richardson: Gillespie didn't deserve a contract

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Mark Gillespie took 11 wickets against South Africa in the final two tests but admits he regularly plays in a great deal of pain. Photo / Getty Images
Mark Gillespie took 11 wickets against South Africa in the final two tests but admits he regularly plays in a great deal of pain. Photo / Getty Images

Being contracted to play international cricket isn't a rite of passage, nor should a hefty amount of money be thrown at you on the back of two tests.

Yesterday New Zealand Cricket announced their top 20 players for the next year and two names were thrown up as "surprising'' or "unlucky'' to not be included in the form of Neil Wagner and Mark Gillespie.

This is the same Neil Wagner who is yet to play a single game of international cricket and the same injury-prone Mark Gillespie who is currently battling an ankle ailment.

Granted, Wagner looks like he could be a player of genuine quality at test level and being a left-armer, he offers something different but to contract a guy who is yet to prove himself would be nonsense.

On the other hand, while Gillespie's 11 wickets against South Africa in the final two tests of the home summer in March were eye-catching, the fact remains he is a bowler who turns 33 this October and admits he regularly plays in a great deal of pain.

It's just not a wise investment to throw a contract at Gillespie, considering the national body gives out only 20 per year; Australia contracts 25 players.

While there are always some losers there were certainly winners too.

Kruger van Wyk only played three tests at the end of last summer due to an injury to BJ Watling - bear in mind Watling made an unbeaten century in his last test innings against Zimbabwe in January - and at 32 it doesn't appear likely that van Wyk will enjoy a long stint behind the stumps at international level.

The Central Districts stumper is a viable selection only in test cricket, which does carry more weight in the contract discussions, but the uncontracted Tom Latham is a wicketkeeper-batsman who could play all three forms. Watling can keep in tests and Brendon McCullum wears the gloves in one-dayers and Twenty20s.

Van Wyk is the incumbent but only due to the injury Watling sustained during the summer and it will be interesting to see who the selectors pick to play behind the stumps in the tests during the upcoming tour to the West Indies with both players fit.

And, if you read Andrew Ellis' name and thought the discarded All Black had switched codes you were wrong, it is a different bloke, but on the back of six underwhelming one-dayers and a sole Twenty20 contest last summer the Cantabrian has been contracted.

New Zealand's obsession with finding a genuine all-rounder - think Sam Wells' selection from the paddock three miles away from left field to join the test squad for the match against Zimbabwe last summer - is becoming detrimental to the side's development.

For the record, Wells carried the drinks and never played in the Napier test, but Ellis' numbers aren't jumping off the page at anybody and while he has come a long way during the past two seasons, he is still a 30-year-old who has battled numerous stress fractures in his back.

If he is picked to play regularly, will his body stand up to the grind of international cricket?

Of the other newbies, leg-spinner Tarun Nethula has been contracted with an eye to the heavy diet of test cricket coming up on turning wickets and is an astute choice, while Doug Bracewell and Dean Brownlie are now regulars in all three forms of the game and James Franklin has rejoined the party.

Five players lost their deals after being contracted previously and of Hamish Bennett, Neil Broom, Andy McKay, Luke Woodcock and Reece Young, only McKay, Bennett and Broom look a chance of getting a run in the future but would have to put up seriously good figures in domestic cricket.

Jesse Ryder was a well-telegraphed omission as the big-hitting left-hander came to an agreement with NZC that he wouldn't be contracted this summer.

- APNZ

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