Jimmy Neesham's return as a test allrounder contender enhances the selection options in the New Zealand squad of 15 named yesterday for their three-test, five-ODI tour to India.
The assertive lefthander has been out of test cricket for 11 months since breaking down with a back injury at Brisbane early in the first test against Australia last November.
It's worth remembering he averages 38.25 from his nine tests and while his wicket return is ordinary - 12 at 39.33 - he can offer the tour selectors some flexibility when it comes to settling on their test teams in what is sure to be a demanding series.
In the absence of Neesham and the other premier seam bowling allrounder, Corey Anderson, who is preparing to return from another back injury, New Zealand have turned to left arm spinner Mitchell Santner. He's a useful batsman but his numbers don't compare with Neesham.
New Zealand will eye Neesham as a possible contender as third seamer in India. That might be a push but would leave room for two spinners in anticipated spin-friendly conditions without compromising the batting order.
"The No 1 priority in terms of allrounders is having someone around No 6 who is going offer either the fourth seamer, or maybe in Indian conditions, the third seamer job," national selector Gavin Larsen said.
It's a delicate business. New Zealand can't afford to shorten the batting order, but must find a way to have a minimum two spinners in their XI. That might mean choosing just two frontline seamers, plus Neesham - for his batting as much as his bowling - so in that scenario who makes way from Tim Southee, Trent Boult and Neil Wagner?
Larsen admitted Southee, whose form has been ordinary for the last year, is vulnerable.
Left armer Boult looked to be coming back to his best form in South Africa while the indefatigable Wagner simply demands selection.
"Tim's got a great pedigree but he's had a tough year, no doubt about that," Larsen said.
"He picked up a niggle or two and never really got back to 100 percent. I thought the signs through South Africa were positive and I'd like to think we're not too far away (from seeing Southee back in strong form)".
Larsen said there is one important point out of the developing fast-medium bowling depth.
"The key point from a selection point of view is these fast bowling spots are contestable. Tim doesn't demand a spot. He's going to have to prove to the tour selectors that he's deserving of taking the new ball."
The squad has been trimmed from the 16 who went to Africa back to the standard 15 for India - the ODI squad will be picked next week.
Seamer Matt Henry misses out as does Jeet Raval who went to Africa but has been deemed surplus for India, leaving no specialist top order backup.
Openers Tom Latham and Martin Guptill had a tough time of it in South Africa. Latham is safe, but Guptill is battling against the red ball.
"He's got three very big tests in front of him," Larsen said of Guptill, a one-day champion but repeatedly unable to convert test opportunities against quality opposition.
Larsen said should a top order replacement be needed, for either injury or form, "we have options that have been identified by the coach and captain".
He didn't name names, but one is sure to be wicketkeeper BJ Watling, an important middle order figure but one who began his test career as an opener and is well versed in the requirements. It would be far from ideal but he's the player with the best chance of doing a solid job.
New Zealand team to India:
Kane Williamson (c), Martin Guptill, Tom Latham, Ross Taylor, Henry Nicholls, BJ Watling, Jimmy Neesham, Mitchell Santner, Mark Craig, Ish Sodhi, Tim Southee, Trent Boult, Neil Wagner, Doug Bracewell, Luke Ronchi.
Sept 22-26: first test, Kanpur
Sept 30-Oct 4: second test, Kolkata
Oct 8-12: third test, Indore
Oct 16: first ODI, Dharamsala
Oct 19: second ODI, Delhi
Oct 23: third ODI, Mohali
Oct 26: fourth ODI, Ranchi
Oct 29: fifth ODI, Visakhapatnam