David Di Somma: Who will be Blackcaps’ 15th man at World Cup?

The Blackcaps have played their last one-day international before the World Cup and now comes the inevitable question – who will be in England in May?

For all the chat about the composition of the squad, it now seems all-but cut and dried. Really, there are just two areas of debate – who are the wicketkeepers and who is the 15th player – or are they one and the same?

In terms of the battle of the right-arm leg-spinners, Todd Astle looks to have won the match race against Ish Sodhi.

Coach Gary Stead obviously likes Astle through their association at Canterbury and the fact he got the inside running against Bangladesh would indicate he’s all-but assured of getting on the plane.

He’s no worldbeater, but a steady pair of hands and clearly a level-headed team man, all good attributes in a squad environment.

If selected, his game-time could well be limited, with Mitchell Santner the go-to spinner/all-rounder by a decent stretch.

As for the wicketkeeping, not quite so easy.

Tom Latham is a cert, although his work with the gloves is often messy – he’s untidy to watch at times.

So who’s the back-up?

There’s been plenty of talk about Henry Nicholls doing the job. He’s largely untried, though it wouldn’t be a massive surprise if he was competent.

He’s just one of those players.

So if it’s not Nicholls, who would it be? Tim Seifert is a possible and certainly his pinch-hitting at the top of the order in the T-20s has propelled him into calculations.

But he’s only played three ODIs, hardly ideal preparation for a World Cup.

Or do they go for BJ Watling, a test specialist, who is a top keeper, but whose batting strike-rate doesn’t set the world on fire.

Or do they gamble on Latham staying fit through a tough schedule, with nine round-robin matches and potentially two knockout games.

If Nicholls is the second keeper, it leaves an extra spot to fill and that’s an interesting selection dilemma.

In England, do the Blackcaps selectors think pace is going to a big weapon and does that mean that injury-prone Adam Milne blasted his way into the squad, after helping the Stags win the local T20 competition?

Has Doug Bracewell done enough with ball and bat to secure a spot?

Stead has talked about having options to cover any contingency. This a very fluid squad, with power players and accumulators in the batting order, and a heap of bowling options, though death-bowling remains a concern and it’s such a critical area of the game.

Experts have spoken that sides will look at 300-plus during this World Cup and this Blackcaps squad has the potential to do that regularly.

The Bangladesh series was not a good barometer of our World Cup chances – they are an average team at best – and the Indian series showed the Blackcaps still have work to do.

The World Cup squad will be announced in April, so what is the likely 15?


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