Cricket: Craig shock naming in Black Caps

By David Leggat

Mark Craig celebrates a wicket for Otago. Photo / Getty Images
Mark Craig celebrates a wicket for Otago. Photo / Getty Images

Otago spinner Mark Craig is the surprise pick in the New Zealand team to tour the West Indies from the end of next month.

The 27-year-old offspinner is the second spinner chosen for a tour to anticipated spin-friendly conditions.

He took 22 Plunket Shield wickets at 39.7 in the just-completed first-class season. Legspinner Ish Sodhi and Craig are the two spinners in the 15-strong squad, which includes just three specialist fast-medium bowlers, Tim Southee, Trent Boult and Neil Wagner.

"Mark has had a strong Plunket Shield taking 22 wickets and his right-arm off-spinners will be valuable against their left-handed heavy top order batting line-up. He's been in our sights for some time and was also chosen for our winter training squad,'' coach Mike Hesson said.

Hesson confirmed Daniel Vettori was unavailable for the tour, saying he felt his bowling loads were not yet up to the intensity of test cricket. Jeetan Patel was also unavailable for the tour but for personal reasons.

Opener Peter Fulton, under pressure to retain his spot after a lean international season, has kept his spot, while limited-overs wicketkeeper Luke Ronchi gets a chance to press his test claims, although he is more likely to be required for the two end-of-tour T20s in Dominica.

"Luke also provides us with middle order batting cover as he's a good player of spin bowling,'' Hesson said.

Hesson is expecting a far more formidable challenge from the West Indies team compared with the injury-hit side that toured here this summer.

"While we gained a convincing 2-0 test series victory against the West Indies in December, they'll be a totally different proposition in their conditions and they'll have the added motivation to perform well in the first match which will be Chris Gayle's 100th test.''

Jesse Ryder and Doug Bracewell were not considered for either squads as they are yet to satisfy the selectors that they have their off-field issues under control.

New Zealand test squad for the tour to the West Indies: Brendon McCullum (c - Otago), Corey Anderson (Northern Districts), Trent Boult (Northern Districts), Mark Craig (Otago), Peter Fulton (Canterbury), Tom Latham (Canterbury), James Neesham (Otago), Luke Ronchi (Wellington), Hamish Rutherford (Otago), Ish Sodhi (Northern Districts), Tim Southee (Northern Districts), Ross Taylor (Central Districts), Neil Wagner (Otago), BJ Watling (Northern Districts), Kane Williamson (Northern Districts).

Schedule:
May 29: v West Indies selection, Jamaica
June 2: v West Indies selection, Jamaica
June 8-12: First test, Jamaica
June 16-20: Second test, Trinidad
June 26: Third test, Guyana
July 5: First T20, Dominica
July 6: Second T20, Dominica

New Zealand A squad to tour England from July until early September: BJ Watling (c), Anton Devcich, Tom Latham, Hamish Rutherford, Dean Brownlie, Daryl Mitchell, Colin de Grandhomme, Colin Munro, Grant Elliott, Scott Kuggeleijn, Ish Sodhi, Hamish Bennett, Matt Henry, Adam Milne.

Note: Devcich, Munro and Sodhi will only take part in the limited-overs leg of the tour. Todd Astle, Michael Bracewell and Mark Craig join the squad for three-day games against Kent and Surrey from late August.

Schedule:
July 31: v Northamptonshire
Aug 2: v Warwickshire
Aug 5: v Sri Lanka A, Taunton
Aug 8: v England Lions, Bristol
Aug 9: v Sri Lanka A, Bristol
Aug 12: v England Lions, Worcester
Aug 15: v Scotland, Ayr
Aug 17: v Scotland, Ayr
Aug 21: v Scotland, Edinburgh
Aug 25-27: v Kent, Canterbury
Aug 31; Sept 2: v Surrey, The Oval

- NZ Herald

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