- Publish Date
- Thursday, 25 November 2021, 7:39AM
By: Niall Anderson
The Black Caps' second World Test Championship campaign begins this afternoon, and with it comes the dawn of a new era behind the stumps.
After 75 tests and a record 265 dismissals, BJ Watling hung up his wicketkeeping gloves following the Black Caps' famous WTC final victory over India in June, with Tom Blundell groomed to take his place.
Blundell has already played 11 tests, seven as an opener, where he averaged 35.3 which included a historic 121 against Australia in the 2019 Boxing Day test at the MCG.
But now, he is ready for a permanent move to No 6, and will start his fulltime test wicketkeeping career with the only challenge as difficult as facing Australia away – playing against India, in India.
"In the past I've been in and out - it was a great experience batting at the top, but for me, batting at six is a comfortable position," Blundell said.
"To be in BJ's pocket for a number of years and watch what he does, I wouldn't have it any other way. He was a great influence on my development as a keeper, but now it's my turn, and hopefully I can do as great a job as he did."
Blundell will be one of several changes from the team who won the world test title, with Devon Conway, Colin de Grandhomme and Trent Boult all unavailable, while the spin-friendly conditions in India will see possibly three new additions from the tweaking ranks.
Black Caps coach Gary Stead indicated that Patel and Will Somerville would "likely" both get the nod, but it wouldn't be a surprise to see Mitchell Santner picked as well, as a third spin option who can also lengthen the batting lineup.
Selecting three spinners would only leave room for two seamers. Given Kyle Jamieson's remarkable start to his test career, which includes 16 wickets at an average of 13 against India, he deserves a chance for his first test in Asian conditions, which would leave Tim Southee and Neil Wagner fighting for the other seam spot – a role that theoretically Wagner's hustle and bustle may suit better if there is little swing on offer in the Kanpur conditions.
The other selection conundrum comes at top of the order, with Conway's self-inflicted injury requiring a new opening partner for Latham.
With keeping and opening too gruelling a task for Blundell to take on, it leaves Will Young as the most likely option to face the new ball with Latham, having done so on his test debut against the West Indies last year.
Offering Rachin Ravindra a test debut would be a call much bolder than the Black Caps selectors usually make, though it wouldn't surprise to see Daryl Mitchell sneak his way into the side after his excellent stint as a surprise opener in the Twenty20 World Cup added to an international career that has impressed in all formats.
India v New Zealand
First test: 5pm today, Kanpur
Odds: India $1.57, Draw $4.25, New Zealand $4.40
India: Mayank Agarwal, Shubman Gill, Cheteshwar Pujara, Shreyas Iyer, Ajinkya Rahane, Wriddhiman Saha, Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin, Axar Patel, Ishant Sharma, Mohammed Siraj/Umesh Yadav.
New Zealand: Tom Latham, Will Young, Kane Williamson, Ross Taylor, Henry Nicholls, Tom Blundell, Mitchell Santner, Kyle Jamieson, Tim Southee/Neil Wagner, Will Somerville, Ajaz Patel.