Cricket: Right guys for right surface called for

By Anendra Singh

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Simon Doull.
Simon Doull.

Put in Doug Bracewell, take out Neil Wagner and be prepared to accommodate Ross Taylor as captain of the Black Caps in the interim.

That's the verdict of former New Zealand seamer and TV commentator Simon Doull.

"There's been calls for seaming wickets and slightly greener ones and we know how well Doug Bracewell performs on that sort of surface," Doull said last night as he and former Black Caps allrounder Chris Cairns passed through Hawke's Bay to promote their boxing match in the Duco Promotions' Fight For Life event in a fortnight.

"I'd love to see him [Bracewell] back in the starting XI," Doull said of the Sharpies Golfing Range Taradale CC allrounder.

"It's a harsh call on Neil Wagner but you've got to pick the right guys for the right surface.

"I'd play Wagner on a flat surface and Bracewell on a greener one every day of the week."

Doull felt the make-up of the test side would be interesting if New Zealand hoped to exploit the tourists' left-handers should budding spinner Ish Sodhi be part of the equation for coach Mike Hesson in the first test starting in Dunedin tomorrow.

"I think we need two right-hand seamers to create foot scuff marks outside the offstump of the left-handers," he said, emphasising that would enable Sodhi to find more traction.

Taking three left-arm seamers in Trent Boult and Wagner (as genuine ones) and a part-timer in Corey Anderson, he felt, would be overkill.

ND seamer Tim Southee, who destroyed the Devon Hotel Central Districts Stags last week in their four-day Plunket Shield match in Hamilton, is the No1 strike bowler for the Kiwis.

"Tim's the main strike weapon with Boult and then, yeah, you can use Corey Anderson as your left-arm, part-time seamer," he said, adding Bracewell would come in as the third genuine seamer.

Sodhi would offer the spin option with Williamson who surprised everyone by declaring he was returning from an injured thumb. "I'm disappointed to hear on the radio that his [Williamson's] thumb is not 100 per cent fixed.

"Why would you be saying that in the first place? You're either ready to play or not ready to play."

Doull said by airing his doubts on his thumb Williamson was simply placing a target on his back for the Windies to open fire on. "I don't think there's any pressure put on him [to play]. I think he's decided he's ready to go so, if that's the case, then there's no point in talking about how his thumb is not healed."

Williamson has reportedly admitted his left hand isn't 100 per cent but the talented No3 batsman was still talking positively about running on to the University Oval tomorrow after practising yesterday.

He fractured his left thumb fielding in an ODI in Bangladesh on October 29.

Williamson, averaging 34.78 from 27 tests, appears desperate to be involved, but fielding could easily re-injure the thumb of a player who fields close up in the slip cordon.

The Black Caps' woes do not end there with batsman Brendon McCullum's nursing a back injury amid some mediocre results under his short tenure as captain. "Look, I'm sure he would have loved to have different results and he would have liked to have been healthy," Doull said.

Probably the biggest concern for McCullum, he felt, was whether he could get through test matches any more or even see through the summer.

"It's not my back and I don't know how sore it is but knowing Brendon well enough it must be pretty bad because he's a tough character.

"Perhaps he hasn't been letting on how bad it is in the past.

"It's a real shame if we lose him for the summer or a few test matches because there's not too many guys that stand out in first-class cricket."

Doull said New Zealand's bowling stocks were commendable but the batting department was anaemic. If McCullum didn't come though then bringing ousted CD batsman Ross Taylor back to the helm was a strong possibility.

"I don't see any other options in that line-up. Peter Fulton's captained sides but I don't think he's a New Zealand test captain," he said, adding Fulton's selection to the team wasn't cemented and "under jeopardy".

"You have to have a player who is an automatic selection to the team."

Expecting Williamson to carry that burden, Doull said, would be "a big call" and only detract from the batsman's primary duty of honing his batting prowess.

"As an interim measure Ross Taylor is the obvious selection but I can't see that working with Mike Hesson so, you know, there's going to be have to be some very tough calls to be made if that is the case."

The Yorkshire county stint had done Williamson a world of good but "he's not there yet as a genuine test player yet".

Doull felt the ND player shouldn't assume the mantle of leadership for at least another two years to ensure he's entrenched as a world-class No3.

CD batsman Carl Cachopa, he said, came to mind as one possibility for inclusion in the test arena after a stellar first-class season and a half.

"He must be in that two or three batsmen to come."

Doull said Otago Volts batsman Jesse Ryder wasn't ready.

"There's stories about late-night antics with Jesse so where there's smoke, there's fire so I don't think he's ready to come into that test line-up yet.

"Apart from that, there's not many options around the country."

Auckland Aces opener Martin Guptill's test figures were poor, averaging nine in the past five tests.

"His red-ball form isn't good enough and his white-ball form impeccable so it looks to me like a player who is a different guy when he sees the white ball."

No doubt, he believes the Black Caps should be winning the test series against the Calypso boys, considering explosive left-hand opening batsman Chris Gayle is already staying back home to nurse a hamstring.

"I think it's probably one of the weaker West Indies sides to our shores and this is a series we should be looking to win and win well.

"Our bowlers are on song so I have no issues with that but we'll have to get runs so the top-order batsmen will have to step up to put some runs on the board," said Doull as New Zealand look to boost their status as a cricketing nation.

- HAWKES BAY TODAY

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