AUCKLAND, New Zealand, CMC – Wicketkeeper BJ Watling has been included in a 12-man squad to face West Indies in next month’s first Test but doubts remain over his fitness, as he continues to battle a hip injury.
New Zealand Cricket said yesterday while the 32-year-old was a part of the squad, he would be “monitored and evaluated over the coming week” as selectors continued to assess his recovery.
The injury has forced Watling to miss the last two rounds of the domestic first class tournament for Northern Districts. He will, however, play as a batsman against Auckland this week and then also face Otago in the fifth round at month end, where selectors are hoping he will be able to take up wicket-keeping duties.
“He’s going well but he’s still a bit problematic with his hip. He’s been through the normal testing and is still feeling it just a bit,” said selector Gavin Larsen.
“It’s precautionary at this stage; he’ll bat in this game [this week] and we’re very hopeful he can wear the gloves in the round five Plunket Shield game. He’ll need to keep, most importantly for his own peace of mind and confidence.”
If Watlin fails to be ready for the opening Test, it is expected that the uncapped Tom Blundell, who has been named in the Black Caps A side to face West Indies in a three-day tour match later this month, will get the call-up.
The 27-year-old has played a single Twenty20 International and 39 first class matches.
“Clearly we’ll be having a really good look at him,” Larsen said.
The remainder of the Test squad is predictable with regular captain Kane Williamson leading a side that includes the likes of Ross Taylor, Tom Latham, Trent Boult and Neil Wagner, all of whom featured in the three-Test series against South Africa last March.
They face a West Indies side whom they have not lost to at home in 22 years, and Larsen said it was important to start the series strongly.
“Aside from a question mark over BJ, we have a fully fit squad who have all shown they have what it takes to perform at Test level,” Larsen noted.
“We want to hit the ground running for that first match at the Basin Reserve. It’s a special place to play cricket and we’re determined to start the summer on a positive note.”
One more player will be added to the squad following the A-side’s outing against West Indies.
SQUAD – Kane Williamson (captain), Trent Boult, Colin de Grandhomme, Matt Henry, +BJ Watling, Tom Latham, Henry Nicholls, Jeet Raval, Mitchell Santner, Tim Southee, Ross Taylor, Neil Wagner.