Black Caps coach Gary Stead has changed his tune on under-fire opener Jeet Raval, and is considering a switch at the top of the order for the Boxing Day test in Melbourne.
Ahead of the first test against Australia, Stead strongly supported the struggling Raval, saying he was confident the 31-year-old could do the job for the Black Caps in their three-test tour.
Now, after Raval was dismissed for one in both innings in Perth – continuing a dismal run which sees him average 7.3 in his last nine test innings - Stead is being far less bold with his public statements, delicately dancing around questions over whether the Black Caps would fly in a replacement into the squad.
It seems unlikely that they would, with the most logical replacement being Tom Blundell, either as a straight swap at the top of the order, or to come into the middle order, with Henry Nicholls or BJ Watling promoted to open. However, after being solid in support of Raval before the series began, now Stead is willing to consider every option.
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"Jeet's been going through a bit of a tough time recently. We're all trying as hard as we can to help Jeet and get him in a good frame of mind as well.
"What we have to do is figure out whether the time is right to make a change or whether we keep backing Jeet to do the role that he's selected for," Stead added when speaking to D'Arcy Waldegrave on Radio Sport.
"We have batting cover on this tour in Tom Blundell, so if there was a change to be made you could do that. I'm not sure when you're coming to Australia and you're going to be thrown in the cauldron of facing these guys in their home conditions that anyone could be absolutely ready and prepared for it. But we rate Tom Blundell as a replacement and that's why he's on this tour to cover batting positions."
Both Blundell and Raval should get an opportunity to state their case before the Boxing Day test, with a two-day warm-up match against a Victorian XI scheduled, while Mitchell Santner and Todd Astle may also need to impress, with Santner's spinning spot up for debate after a poor performance in Perth.
After a strong series against England, Santner went wicketless while conceding 146 runs, and contributed just two runs with the bat. His usual economy was missing in action as well, and a more attacking option like Astle could be considered for Boxing Day.
"If we compare teams, Nathan Lyon has taken over 300 test wickets and we don't have anyone in New Zealand that's anywhere near that," Stead explained while discussing his options.
"Mitch has done a wonderful role for us in winning a number of test matches, certainly in our conditions. Like all positions, we'll evaluate where we are at, and work out whether it's the right option heading into Melbourne, but we've also got some cover in the squad as well with Todd Astle."
However, while changes could be on the cards, Stead stressed that this was not the time to make a radical overhaul to a philosophy that has served the team well in recent times.
"We don't make kneejerk reactions too much – we understand that it's a game of cricket and you can't win every game. Australia played very well against us, we know they are very hard to beat in these conditions, but we've also got an experienced side as well who won't panic.
"We can get better and hopefully challenge the Australians more in the next match."