Allrounder Doug Bracewell is the 12th man for the first cricket test against the West Indies in Dunedin today but former international Chris Cairns says the Hawke's Bay cricketer is among the top three Black Caps seamers.

"I would leave Dougie in the group because I see him as excellent cover and the next nip off the rank. He's a very good bowler," says TV commentator Cairns, who was passing through the Bay to promote his boxing match against fellow retired international player and commentator Simon Doull in the Duco Promotions' Fight For Life event in a fortnight.

"Whether you've got two left-armers in [Neil] Wagner or [Trent] Boult and [Corey] Anderson needs to play a role so that doesn't really faze me," says the 43-year-old from Auckland.

"With that combination you've got to ask who are the best three seamers and you've got to say Bracewell is in there."


His preoccupation, though, is with how the Kiwis will factor in ND spinner Ish Sodhi this season.

"Before [Daniel] Vettori comes back, Sodhi must stay in and around the team environment and be involved even when he's not playing because that is a critical investment that New Zealand Cricket needs to keep making."

Vettori will return after the West Indies series, Cairns believes, despite media speculation the ND veteran is signalling his retirement from red-ball cricket.

Finding "top-line" support for Sodhi is imperative, he reckons.

"Graeme Swann has Mustaq Ahmed to sit with at the end of the day to discuss how, you know, things are working.

"Nathan Lyon has Shane Warne available in the commentary box to have a chat with."

Sodhi, with Vettori around, will be very helpful but they must also invest in people on the side with the talent that is coming through.

While former Pakistan international Mushtaq was involved with the Black Caps stable during the recent subcontinent tours, he feels there's still a need for a specialist.

"One of the best legspin coaches around is Abdul Kadir so it's whether New Zealand Cricket is in the mindset to be able to look to have that quality around."

Vettori is in "our own backyard but Dan's got to focus on his own career. Once Dan's finished then it's a different role".

"At the moment he can help but he's also got to make sure his game's right so you can't burden him with too much."

Spinners, Cairns believes, will only come into the equation when New Zealand are capable of posting totals in the vicinity of 400 to 500-plus runs.

"If you don't have the runs to play with then inexperienced spinners can become a liability."

Just as Doull had expressed concern with Kane Williamson's fitness, Cairns also emphasises the camp should take a stance of "either he's fit or not fit".

The ND batsman was ruled out yesterday.

Cairns does not want to be drawn into the captaincy debate with Brendon McCullum's back ailment.

"For me it's about McCullum's captain so let's not talk about it until it happens."