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August 2, 2010 | by  | in Opinion |
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The Black Caps

The Reverse Sweep

The Black Caps embark on a tri-series against Sri Lanka and India this month on the back of the recent naming of the year’s contracted players list. As per usual, the makeup of the list was not without controversy. Five changes have been made to last season’s twenty, with a number of star rookies making their presence felt.

Veteran domestic toilers Andy McKay and Nathan McCullum have been added to the list, alongside BJ Watling and exciting prodigy Kane Williamson, while Scott Styris gets his place back following Shane Bond’s retirement. The casualties are underperforming batsmen Neil Broom and Daniel Flynn, and all-rounders James Franklin and Ian Butler.

The new points system used to select the contracted players played a big part in the demise of Ian Butler, who was pinpointed as the “unluckiest player” by coach and selector Mark Greatbach. Test performances are now worth double those of ODIs and T20s, making it difficult for limited over specialists like Butler to make it—especially with a relatively large quantity of test cricket coming up. Butler has surely outperformed the likes of Styris and Jacob Oram over the last year.

The “Baby Caps” head to Sri Lanka as clear underdogs (currently paying around $4.50 to win the series), due in no small part to its youthful nature. The distinctive lack of captain fantastic Daniel Vettori and master blaster Brendon McCullum leaves the Kiwis somewhat underpowered. It will be interesting and worthwhile seeing how the Ross Taylor-captained side manages in their absence.

The most publicised Black Cap news is the continued unavailability of injury-prone star Jesse Ryder. Ryder has been ruled out of the tri-series, due to an aggravated elbow injury sustained prior to the Twenty20 World Cup in May. Ryder’s injury-prone nature has caught the attention of Greatbach, who believes that the big hitting all-rounder needs to start working just as hard off the field as on it in order to avoid continued injuries. This is a view trumpeted by ex-Black Cap Craig McMillan, who believes Ryder is not doing his best to get fit, and hence has a questionable work ethic.

Ryder’s place has been taken in the tri-series squad by Central Districts’ opener Peter Ingram—a twist of fate following his absence from the contracted players list. His spot was originally reserved for fellow un-contracted batsman Aaron Redmond, however, the Otago opener has wedding commitments.

The touring squad is far from ideal, while the contracted list also (debatably) leaves a lot to be desired. But you can never count out the Black Caps when it comes to ODIs. I will be keenly following the tri-series, starting on the 10th against India. With plenty of promising youngsters coming through the ranks, New Zealand cricket is hopefully on the way up.

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