Blackcaps vs Sri Lanka: ODI Squad Named

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Unlike preparations for the Champions Trophy, it appears as though there is some legit planning going down ahead of the World Cup with the ODI squad to face Sri Lanka reflecting the highly competitive depth in the ODI format. That competition for World Cup squad spots and then 1st 11 spots is such that the squad for the Sri Lanka series doesn't look like a development group, or a squad with some second-tier guy and you could make a decent case for it being the best 50-over cricketers in Aotearoa.

Tom Latham and Colin de Grandhomme are the big names who have missed out on selection, while Mitchell Santner is also someone who will feature prominently in any World Cup discussions. Martin Guptill slides back into contention, along with all-rounders Doug Bracewell and Jimmy Neesham; Neesham's the hottest 50-over batsman on the domestic circuit who hovers on the Blackcaps fringes.

Given the nature of this squad, it's difficult to come to any conclusions about players not named here and everyone in the wider ODI mixer is still in that mixer. The funkiest thought that pops to mind, especially with Guptill coming back to open - most likely alongside Colin Munro - is that Neesham and Seifert could make for some niggly selection decision around that middle order moving forward. Niggly, as Latham is settling down nicely in the #5 spot with three 50+ scores in his last 7innings.

My advice is to view Neesham as more of a batsman who can dabble in bowling activities, especially with such an abundance of seamers (or seaming all-rounders). Trent Boult, Tim Southee and Matt Henry are joined by Lockie Ferguson and Bracewell, with Munro and Ish Sodhi offering further bowling options. I'd suspect that Neesham will take Latham's #5 spot and if he finds himself among the runs, then shit starts to get real.

Offering further niggle is that Seifert won't be opening while Munro and Guptill are in the squad, well for the time being any way. Seifert is the wicket-keeper and while Latham's skills as a batsman are nicely suited to the craft required in the middle stages, Seifert gives it a whack and could be viewed as a better option down the order in terms of hitting boundaries.

This narrative then swings back around to Guptill and Munro - not because I want Latham to open though. Munro's last 50+ score was in the series vs Pakistan earlier in 2018 and he has since had 9inns with a 49 being his best effort, along with three ducks and five sub-10 scores in those 9inns. Batting wasn't exactly easy in United Arab Emirates, so I'll roll back to the ODI series vs England where Munro had scores of 6, 1, 49, 0 and 0 to suggest that Munro's World Cup spot ain't locked in just yet.

Guptill on the other hand, has the runs behind him and there's little arguing needed when pondering Guptill being a better ODI opener than Munro. However, late in his career, Guptill is often injured and his World Cup spot ain't locked in based on there being little evidence to suggest he can stay healthy.

Safe to say that a major focus will be on the performances of Guptill and Munro up top. This increases when pondering Seifert's future as he could be a contender to open, if the stars align in terms of him scoring runs and the openers slipping up. The middle order is jam-packed; Latham and Nicholls are the incumbents, kinda joined by de Grandhomme, then Neesham, Bracewell and Seifert want a piece, let alone Mitchell Santner and Corey Anderson.

Another who will need to perform at a high level is leggy Ish Sodhi, who has thankfully been given a chance to make his case for selection. Such faith won't be extended Sodhi's way for long though as Santner is back in action alongside Sodhi in the Super Smash and to a lesser extent, Todd Astle is on the comeback trail from injury. As the World Cup is in England, there may only be one spinner in the World Cup squad and it can be boiled down to Sodhi vs Santner - it's not that simple but yeah.

Sodhi took 2w in 3inns (24 overs) @ 63avg/5.25rpo in UAE vs Pakistan and with Santner on the sidelines, that's not exactly snapping up an opportunity. Sodhi and Santner both have 2w in the Super Smash, with Santner's wickets coming from 7ov and Sodhi's from 8ov thus giving Santner a better average. Wickets will be on the agenda for Sodhi, 1+ wicket most games and if he can concede less than 6rpo in the process then even better.

Santner holds more upside as a batsman than Sodhi and while Sodhi's hunting ODI wickets for the Blackcaps, if Santner can prove to be effective in limiting Super Smash runs, his case for selection will heat up. Of course, there's room for two spinners in the Blackcaps ODI team, especially as they are handy with the willow.

As this squad shows, the strength of 50-over cricket in Aotearoa is in the seam department and middle order batting. Instead of Sodhi vs Santner, it becomes a matter of Sodhi vs (insert seaming all-rounder here) and the only way to settle any discussion around Sodhi, is dominant wicket-taking, game-changing spells from the leggy against Sri Lanka.

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Peace and love 27.