Allow me to get this out of the way nice and early; Doug Bracewell is in my top-5 kiwi cricketers currently playing (in no order … Ross, Ish, Doug, Kane, Jeet) . It'd be a stretch to say he's that high in my all time rankings, he'd still be a top-10er though and none of my appreciation for Douglas has anything to do with his Blackcaps antics. I merely like that gentle outswing, consistent nibble off the pitch, mellow vibe and I'm sure that youz have all heard recently how well he can bat.
Last night Bracewell won Man of the Match honours in the T20I between Aotearoa vs Sri Lanka. A fun ol' game wasn't it? I loved it as it was like rest and recuperation time for me; I didn't need to ponder greater Blackcaps implications, didn't have to concentrate on body language or vibes, nor did have to assess the challenges offered by Sri Lanka and Eden Park's drop in block of concrete.
I could switch off and simply be entertained.
Regardless of how much the commentators and anyone else tried to pump up the consequence of a T20I with zero context, this was a T20I with zero context. The Blackcaps batting order didn't matter, Mitchell Santner's been playing plenty of cricket so how his knee responded didn't matter either. The failing of the top order for the first time this summer didn't matter, while Bracewell and Scott Kuggeleijn hitting lovely boundaries in a T20 game at the smallest ground I can think of, definitely didn't matter either.
There is still room to appreciate that many casual kiwi sports fans have no idea who Kuggeleijn is, perhaps other than some off-field indiscretions in the past (weird situation that). Casual fans may also not be aware that Bracewell can hold a bat, or that Bracewell has List-A averages of 43, 31.83 and 40.25 in the three kiwi summers prior to our current summer.
Casual sports fans probably don't tune into Domestic Cricket Daily, nor do they consume Niche Cache content ... because we are so hardcore. All of this is to say that Bracewell and Kuggeleijn put on a nice show and good for them. With my appreciation for Bracewell in mind though, his performance in this T20I doesn't boost his Blackcaps ODI stocks and instantly put him in greater competition with Jimmy Neesham for that famed all-rounder spot.
Even that idea doesn't feel right. Not just because Neesham has just come from an ODI series in which he averaged 20/6pro with the ball and via 2 not out innings, averaged 123/219.64sr with the bat. When pondering where Bracewell fits into the ODI mix, my ideas seem to differ to those of the decision makers and others with a voice as I don't really view Neesham and Bracewell being in direct competition with each other.
This stems from settling on Neesham being a batsman, then bowler and Bracewell being bowler, then batsmen. It's important to note that Neesham has spoken about being a frontline bowler, how much work he's put into his bowling etc and that's all lovely. Personally, I like Neesham's batting more than his bowling and his ceiling as a middle order batsman who can wiggle the ball around while also giving it a whack feels more valuable to this team.
Comparing Neesham to Tom Latham is an interesting task, given that Latham's absence allowed Henry Nicholls to move up to #5 and Neesham to come in at #6. Latham is all craft, a wonderful batsman, who if he has any type of ODI weakness, it's most likely viewed as his ability to give the ball a whack. Neesham has the whack whack part sussed and it's up to you to decide if Neesham's craft is better than Latham's slugging.
Going down that route then allows you to ponder a team with both Neesham and Bracewell in it. Bracewell's value starts with the ball and like Neesham's bowling, Bracewell can do a job down the order; if Bracewell can bowl 10 overs @ 5rpo with a wicket here or there and hit 30 off 20 then that's great.
The issue for Bracewell is that Lockie Ferguson was the leading wicket-taker vs Pakistan in United Arab Emirates, followed by being 2nd behind Ish Sodhi and having the lowest average (only played two games) of the kiwi bowlers. Ferguson is taking his opportunities and this making life difficult for Matt Henry, let alone Bracewell and Mitchell Santner.
And let alone Colin de Grandhomme … forgot about him.
That's the group of players who I've got as being likely squad members (depending on squad size), who are competing for a one, maybe two 1st 11 spots. At this point I must clarify my standing on Tim Southee as I've chucked him in the 'locked in' category, which isn't because I love Mr Southee. Regardless of how you and I feel about Southee, he'll be there and as it's my duty to you to speak truth, it would be irresponsible of me to suggest otherwise. Whether it's his experience, or the fact that the Duke ball will be hoopin' in England, or any of the other reasons; like it or not, Southee will partner Trent Boult with the new ball at the World Cup.
Ish Sodhi and Lockie Ferguson have to maintain their strong work under coach Gaz in ODI cricket. They are commanding selection through their performances and as long as they do so, then Bracewell, Santner and Henry are on the fringes. What Bracewell must now do is perform with the ball vs India and Bangladesh whenever he gets a crack, then his batting can be of value down the order.
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Peace and love 27.