Cricket: Spinner eyes testing times

By David Leggat

Lack of slow-bowling options may see the oft-overlooked Nathan McCullum capped.

Nathan McCullum may finally get a test cap next month. Photo / Christine Cornege
Nathan McCullum may finally get a test cap next month. Photo / Christine Cornege

The one gap on Nathan McCullum's cricketing CV could be filled next month.

The offspinning all-rounder is a regular member of New Zealand's ODI and T20 teams, but a test cap has eluded the 32-year-old older brother of the national captain.

McCullum has been seen as a parsimonious bowler, adept at keeping runs down rather than offering a penetrative edge. However, that may change when the England tests arrive if the national selectors have reservations about spin-bowling options.

The senior man, Dan Vettori, is battling to recover from long-term injuries; offspinner Jeetan Patel disappointed in South Africa and has had plenty of opportunities; experienced left-armer Bruce Martin is a chance, but his non-selection for the second test in Port Elizabeth was a poor call and hinted at doubts about him on the biggest stage.

Legspinners Tarun Nethula and Todd Astle are unlikely to fit the bill, certainly at the first test venue, Dunedin's University Oval.

So McCullum may be the man to support the seamers, who are expected to do the bulk of the work in the anticipated seam-friendly conditions. His batting will certainly help strengthen a lengthy tail, too.

McCullum won himself a second gig in the Indian Premier League yesterday, snared for US$100,000 by the new franchise, the Sunrisers Hyderabad, where his teammates will include Sri Lankan batting star Kumar Sangakkara and Sri Lanka's late-order blaster, Thushara Perera.

A combative type and outstanding fielder, McCullum played the first of his 42 T20s in Durban six years ago, and made himself a regular following an 18-month absence after his debut. His 40 wickets at 18.95 give a clue why he's so highly regarded in that form.

His 43 ODIs since September 2009 have produced 30 wickets at a less flattering 46 but he averages a brisk 20.33 with the bat.

McCullum has never given up on a test cap and years of playing against the best for New Zealand make him an unlikely candidate for stage fright.

And frankly New Zealand, in test terms, can't afford to ignore experienced internationals just because they've been pigeon-holed and overlooked until now.

"In the early part of my career I didn't really show my skills as a first-class bowler consistently but as I've got older and more experienced, I've contributed to winning four-day cricket more frequently," McCullum said last night of his test aspirations.

Seven New Zealand players will feature in the sixth edition of the IPL, starting on April 3. Brendon McCullum is back at champions Kolkata Knight Riders, who start the competition at home against Delhi. The final is at Kolkata on May 26.

NZers at the IPL

Kolkata Knight Riders: Brendon McCullum

Delhi Daredevils: Ross Taylor and Jesse Ryder, who was picked up for US$260,000 at auction.

Mumbai Indians: James Franklin, Jacob Oram, picked up for US$50,000.

Sunrisers Hyderabad: Nathan McCullum, bought for US$100,000 at auction.

Royal Challengers Bangalore: Dan Vettori.

- NZ Herald

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