Cricket: Improved consistency pushes Raval over the line

By David Leggat

Jeet Raval of the Aces bats during the one day final match between the Canterbury Wizards and the Auckland Aces. Photo / Getty Images
Jeet Raval of the Aces bats during the one day final match between the Canterbury Wizards and the Auckland Aces. Photo / Getty Images

Auckland coach Mark O'Donnell has thrown his weight behind the selection of opener Jeet Raval for New Zealand's tour to Zimbabwe and Africa in July-August.

The lefthander was the one new name in the squad of 16 named yesterday for the four-test trip to Africa. The New Zealand test batting group had a vacancy, brought about by Brendon McCullum's retirement after the last series, at home to Australia in February.

Raval has been knocking on the door for a few seasons, but his improved consistency of late has got him across the line. Raval averaged 55.71 for Auckland in last season's Plunket Shield, helping his team to win the shield; 876 at 48.66 in the previous summer. His overall first-class average is 43.85, and he's hit 14 first-class centuries.

That he can bat long is well known. He marked his debut season in 2008-09 with 256 against Central Districts; last season there was 202 not out against Otago at Eden Park.

The 27-year-old is a specialist opener, which would throw up an intriguing question of the right batting order if Raval and incumbent openers Tom Latham and Martin Guptill were all needed in a test in Africa. Guptill would seem the logical player to move down the order.

"It is time and I think they need to find out a bit more about him," O'Donnell said of Raval's inclusion. "He has some attributes that figure well for international cricket. He plays well off the back foot and leaves well, which is a key prerequisite in South Africa when facing high quality pace bowling early."

More a classicist than a slugger in style, with what O'Donnell called an easy flow and the ability to make shotmaking look effortless when he's on song, Raval has had the cricket experiences needed to shape his game and aid the step up in class.

"By 27 or 28 you know your game," O'Donnell said. "You've succeeded a few times, had a few things go wrong and you've rebuilt your technique, whereas at 22 or 23 you just tend to play. I do think he knows his game and in the last couple of years, particularly this last season, he has nailed starts and has had a lot of conversions."

Legspinner Ish Sodhi has been recalled, having been missing since the three tests against Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates at the end of 2014.

That gives New Zealand three spinners, along with offspinner Mark Craig and left arm allrounder Mitch Santner, for the anticipated helpful conditions of Harare. Allrounder Corey Anderson wasn't considered due to a lingering back complaint.

The squad flies out on July 11 for an eight-day camp in Johannesburg.

- NZ Herald

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