New Zealand head coach Gary Stead believes that the Kiwis are blessed to have impeccable squad depth and revealed that the management are yet to decide on the all-rounder’s spot for the first Test. Stead also confirmed that he does not expect Trent Boult to feature in both the Test matches.
For years now New Zealand have been one of the most settled sides in Test cricket, but the absence of Trent Boult, coupled with the unpredictability of the Lord’s wicket, means that the management will have a few big selection calls to make. As things stand, both the No.7 slot - generally occupied by an all-rounder - and the fourth bowler slot are up for grabs, and head coach Gary Stead revealed that both Colin de Grandhomme, who is coming back from injury, and Daryl Mitchell, who struck a ton in his last Test, are in contention to play at 7.
Stead, however, admitted that, owing to the balance of the team, only one of the two seam-bowling all-rounders are likely to get the nod.
"I wouldn't expect both to play the same game, I think there's definitely a chance for one of them to play but yeah, I don't think that two will fit into the whole mix,” Stead said ahead of the first Test.
With Tim Southee, Kyle Jamieson and Neil Wagner being automatic picks, one of Matt Henry, Doug Bracewell and Jacob Duffy could slot in as the fourth bowler, but Stead revealed that the Kiwis are also pondering the option of playing Mitchell Santner as the fourth bowler. Lord’s is not renowned for being spin-friendly, but Stead insisted that Santner is someone who would solidify the side due to the balance he brings.
"What Mitch does is he provides a little bit of a different balance to our team in that he provides you batting opportunity as well. So the decision we will have to make is will we go with four frontline seamers, as we have in the past year, when Colin was injured and Kyle came into the team and put that different sort of balance on our team; or do you go with three seamers and then you play the allrounder in De Grandhomme and the allrounder in Santner as well,” Stead said.
The New Zealand side that is set to play three Tests over the next month does feature stars who partook in IPL 2021 but one of them is not Trent Boult, who chose to fly back home to recharge himself. The Kiwis did name Boult in the extended squad for both the England Tests and the World Test Championship Final, but Stead admitted that he only expects Boult to feature against India.
"He's been home, he has had a week of bowling over there which has been great after the fair amount of isolation time at the end of the IPL. But our view with Trent right now is it's unlikely that he will play the test at Edgbaston. And he's, he's more likely to be just available for the one-off Test."
New Zealand, who are eyeing the WTC crown, and England, who are building up to the Ashes, have different motives heading into the two-Test series, but Stead asserted that both the Tests will be high-octane contests despite the general public seeing the series as a mere warm-up for the WTC Final.
"I imagine from reading some of the stuff that Chris [Silverwood] is looking ahead to games beyond just this and I guess we're in slightly different situations as a team as well. We've obviously got two Tests and then the World Test Championship final that we're preparing for and England have got these two Tests to keep looking at the future, these aren't World Test Championship points as well.
"So we're in slightly unique and different situations at the moment but I assure you, when you, when you get on the field and you get to Lord's here as we have, the juices will be running for both teams and it's team vs team and it doesn't really matter who's in the teams."
The first Test, which will be played at Lord’s, will commence on Wednesday, June 2.