Andrew Alderson

Andrew Alderson is a sport writer for the Herald on Sunday.

Cricket: Stable selections policy a winner

Doug Bracewell is over his injury and is in the test XI to tour England. Photo / Getty Images
Doug Bracewell is over his injury and is in the test XI to tour England. Photo / Getty Images

New Zealand Cricket might be in a power squabble at an operational and governance level but there is welcome stability in the playing XI, judging by the selection of the national cricket teams to tour England next month.

The recent test series against England was the first time in a three-test series that an unchanged New Zealand XI had been used. The world's eighth-ranked team reaped the benefits. An argument can be made that drawing a series over a much-vaunted world No2 was a moral victory.

Perseverance was shown with fringe players such as Peter Fulton, Bruce Martin and Neil Wagner. They repaid the selection faith with solid and, in Fulton's case, exceptional performances. They have been rewarded with places on the England tour where there is no reason why the policy of a steady hand in selection should cease.

The ideal of a settled and secure team is often sought but, just as often, selectors and captains fiddle with their team complement if, for example, they make changes forced by an unexpected loss, public or administrative pressure and other factors.

Injuries sometimes compound matters - Martin Guptill and Doug Bracewell were cases in point against England - but their absence from the New Zealand team has only served to enhance the competition for places.

History points to some key examples where a stable team directly links with test success. During the last 30 years, four campaigns or eras leap to mind where often only injury prevented teams sticking with the same players throughout.

The England's Ashes squads of 2005 and 2010-11 are examples. In 2005, an ankle injury to pace bowler Simon Jones prevented the same XI playing throughout their successful quest to win the urn for the first time in 18 years. Paul Collingwood replaced Jones for the drawn final test at The Oval. In 2010-11, they used only 13 players over the five-test series to retain the urn away from home for the first time in 24 years.

When Australia first completed their world record 16 consecutive win sequences from 1999 to 2001, they had used 20 players. When they completed the same feat, again under coach John Buchanan from 2006 to 2008, they had used 19.

The West Indies completed 14 tests unbeaten in 1984 using 17 players.

Included in those tests was the previous world record run of 11 straight wins until Steve Waugh's Australian juggernaut emerged.

While the New Zealand squad cannot claim to have anyone with the pedigree of Sir Vivian Richards, Adam Gilchrist or Andrew Flintoff on staff, the performances against England vindicated the value of stability.

Other New Zealand sides also show measured selection policies hold merit. In 1985-86, the New Zealand team which beat Australia away for the first time in a three-test series used 14 players. Two of those - Stephen Boock and John Bracewell - came in to join Vaughan Brown in the Sydney test when the team opted for the radical - and ultimately unsuccessful - plan of trying to bowl the hosts out using three spinners.

The Stephen Fleming-led side which beat England 2-1 in 1999 used 14 players across four tests while Walter Hadlee's side which drew the four-test series against England in 1949 used 13.

Coach Mike Hesson would be wise to put his faith in the status quo.

- Herald on Sunday

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