The inclusions of Ish Sodhi and Tom Blundell are set to be the major talking points when the Black Caps reveal their Cricket World Cup squad tomorrow morning.
The Herald understands that the pair have won their respective races to book their trip to the United Kingdom in May, with their names to be read out at 11.00am tomorrow at the Black Caps' squad announcement in Christchurch.
In one of the more debated selections, Sodhi has beaten Todd Astle in their competition for the second spinning spot alongside Mitchell Santner, while Blundell has come from nowhere to take the back-up wicketkeeping role behind Tom Latham.
While displaced by Henry Nicholls as Martin Guptill's opening partner, Colin Munro will travel as a back-up batsman and part-time medium pace option, while Colin de Grandhomme and Jimmy Neesham will join Santner as the all-rounders in the squad.
Matt Henry and Lockie Ferguson's strong summers with the ball will see them join the experienced pair of Tim Southee and Trent Boult as the Black Caps' premier seam options in the UK, with Doug Bracewell missing out and Adam Milne plagued by injuries.
Most of the decisions would have been made easy for the selectors after the Black Caps played 14 ODIs over the summer, but the debates over the merits of Sodhi and Blundell's inclusions would have been lengthy between coach Gary Stead, selector Gavin Larsen, and captain Kane Williamson.
The battle between Sodhi and Astle was the most curious subplot of the one-day summer. Astle was picked for the final ODI series before the World Cup against Bangladesh, with the reasoning that the selectors wanted to see more of him after recovering from a knee injury.
However, he was then only selected in just one of the three encounters, and while he offers more with the bat, Sodhi has higher upside with the ball. The Northern Districts spinner was genuinely excellent against Sri Lanka, bowled well in one of his two ODIs against India, and then responded to his international snubs by taking 24 wickets in three four-day games last month.
Sodhi, who has taken 39 wickets in 30 ODIs, also has some element of pedigree in ODI cricket, something Blundell cannot lay claim to.
The Wellington gloveman has never played an ODI, and doesn't even have a solid domestic one-day record, averaging just 23.8 at a strike rate of 79. He missed this season's domestic one-day competition, and has only played one List A game since February 2018, for New Zealand A against Pakistan. As a result, he looked to be well down in the pecking order behind Northern Districts' Tim Seifert, who showed his immense potential by blasting 84 off 43 balls and 43 from 25 balls against India in the Twenty20 series.
However, a broken finger suffered by Seifert in the Plunket Shield last fortnight complicated matters. Although Seifert will recover in plenty of time to be fit for the World Cup, there have been doubts cast over whether his glovework is up to international standard, a trait Blundell – the back-up test wicketkeeper – is deemed to possess.
Several other wicketkeeper-batsmen would have provided more versatility than Blundell if required as a specialist batsman, with Seifert especially capable of batting anywhere in the order, but the Black Caps are likely banking on Latham playing every game regardless, with Blundell's glovework seen as the sound option in case of a crisis.
Seifert could still be on call as an injury replacement if required, while several other players who missed out on the Cup cut will still be part of the Black Caps' three camps in Christchurch this month, as well as their three warm-up matches against Australia in Brisbane in May.
The likely Black Caps World Cup squad: Kane Williamson, Martin Guptill, Henry Nicholls, Ross Taylor, Tom Latham, Colin Munro, Tom Blundell, Colin de Grandhomme, Mitchell Santner, Jimmy Neesham, Ish Sodhi, Matt Henry, Lockie Ferguson, Tim Southee, Trent Boult.