The inclusion of Tom Blundell, the uncapped wicket-keeper, was the big news as New Zealand became the first team to announce their 15-man squad for the 2019 World Cup.
Blundell is a familiar face – he’s already played two Tests, scoring a century on debut against West Indies in 2017 – but has a mostly modest record in List A cricket: in 40 matches, he has 762 runs at just 23.81. But he is widely recognised as an extremely skilled gloveman.
Apart from Blundell, the other big inclusion was that of Ish Sodhi, the leg-spinner, who was picked over Todd Astle. Sodhi has 39 wickets in 30 ODIs, and will fill the non-negotiable role of wrist-spinner in the squad.
That apart, there were no surprises. Kane Williamson will lead squad. Ross Taylor will play his fourth World Cup – the seventh New Zealander to do so – while Tim Southee, Martin Guptill and Williamson himself will be playing their third tournament.
Apart from Astle, all-rounder Corey Anderson, who is struggling with injuries and underwent surgery on his left shoulder a week ago, missed out, as did paceman Doug Bracewell.
Gary Stead, the coach, said that tough calls had to be made, but was happy with the final outcome. “The World Cup is the pinnacle of cricket, and to be the first nation to name a squad for the tournament is really exciting,” he said. “I’d like to congratulate all the players selected. To represent your country at a World Cup is a huge honour, and I know the entire squad and support staff are looking forward to the challenges ahead.
— BLACKCAPS (@BLACKCAPS) April 2, 2019
“As with any squad named for a major tournament, there had to be some tough calls and there will be some disappointed players. The key for us was finding the right balance for the squad and making sure we had our bases covered for what is going to be a very competitive World Cup.”
The announcement itself was a rather charming presentation, and quite different from the usual monotonous press conference. It was made at the Tai Tapu School, on the outskirts of Christchurch, and the press conference was led by two students, opening a “special school assembly”. David White, the New Zealand CEO, then took over.
Squad: Kane Williamson (c), Ross Taylor, Tom Latham (wk), Tom Blundell (wk), Mitchell Santner, Colin de Grandhomme, Lockie Ferguson, Tim Southee, Trent Boult, Colin Munro, Ish Sodhi, Henry Nicholls, Martin Guptill, Matt Henry, Jimmy Neesham