Cricket: Ryder riddle a test for selectors

By David Leggat

Tussle for top-order spots a welcome conundrum before India tour starts.

Jesse Ryder is without question one of the country's two most gifted batsmen, but where to fit him in? Photo / Getty Images
Jesse Ryder is without question one of the country's two most gifted batsmen, but where to fit him in? Photo / Getty Images

Back-to-back test wins against the West Indies. Roll on India. After enduring a 10-test famine, New Zealand have gone to a veritable three-course, five-star feast in the past fortnight.

Granted, it has been against a poor West Indian team, but New Zealand have got back to winning ways in tests and that should be applauded.

They've used 12 players in the three tests - Aaron Redmond replacing Kane Williamson for the first tests - the introduction of legspinner Ish Sodhi continues apace; allrounder Corey Anderson is making strides with bat and ball.

New-ball pair Tim Southee and Trent Boult have shared 38 wickets in the three tests and provided a genuine cutting edge. Ross Taylor is in the form of his life.

Unless there's injury or a drastic loss of form it should mean an unchanged XI for Eden Park on February 6.

There are two Plunket Shield rounds for players to prove their worth before the first Indian test.

They start on January 23 and January 30.

One name will come up repeatedly between now and then. Having made his way back to the ODI side, Jesse Ryder re-emphasised his case for a test recall with 119 for Otago against Central Districts yesterday, his third first-class century of the season.

Ryder is without question one of the country's two most gifted batsmen, along with Taylor, but where to fit him in? Lock in Kane Williamson, Taylor, captain Brendon McCullum at Nos3, 4 and 5. Anderson deserves his place and is a work in progress at No6 and fourth seamer. Dropping him would be harsh.

Which leaves the openers. This month, Hamish Rutherford and Peter Fulton were being lauded as among New Zealand's most successful opening partnerships. In this series, they had had stands of 95, 3, 14, 10 and 33. Fulton's 91 runs at 18.2 might make him vulnerable.

Last summer, the selectors paired Rutherford and Tom Latham against England at Queenstown and Rutherford's first innings 90 sealed his test place. The two-dayer against India at Whangarei on February 2-3 could fulfil a similar function, if selectors Mike Hesson and Bruce Edgar are pondering what to do about Ryder?

That pre-supposes, a) Ryder is still heavily among the runs; and b) they see him as a potential opener.

It's unlikely and so the conundrum is this: if Ryder is to be slotted into the batting top six, where?

McCullum back to open, leaving a gap for Ryder? No. But as the skipper said yesterday, pressure from below - and this includes in-form Martin Guptill and Tom Latham - suggests a healthy state for the game.

"I still believe the guys in this team are performing well. You have to look at the pieces of the jigsaw and how they fit into that as well."

This is a winning team, and there's an old saying around that.

It's not a rock-solid rule, but these selectors most likely feel that there's no need for change at the start of the new year after putting an emphatic end to a barren first 11 months of 2012.

- NZ Herald

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