TELFORD VICE, Cape Town
JEET Raval doesn’t sound like the name of someone who might play cricket for New Zealand. But there that name was in the Kiwi squad announced on Friday to play four tests in Zimbabwe and SA in July and August.
Then again, cricket, much less test cricket, has no business being played in countries like Zimbabwe and SA in months like July and August.
But, in the game’s ever braver, ever newer world, concepts like seasons and representivity are ever more fluid.
Raval was born in Ahmedabad in India and played for Gujarat’s under-15 and under-17 teams in 2002 and 2003. Two years later he played for Auckland’s under-17 side.
At 27, he is an established opening batsman in New Zealand, where he has a first-class average of 43.85. His three centuries – one of them an undefeated 202 – and average of 55.71 helped Auckland win the Plunket Shield last season.
“Jeet has been impressive in the Plunket Shield for a number of years now and in the past 12 months we’ve seen his maturity and decision-making continue to improve,” a New Zealand Cricket release quoted coach Mike Hesson as saying.
“He’s learnt to adapt to conditions and has performed well for New Zealand A, so we believe he’s more than ready to make the step up to the international arena.”
Another Indian-born player, leg spinner Ish Sodhi, is back in the mix having last appeared in a test in 2014.
Still another transplant in the squad, left-arm seamer Neil Wagner, was born in Pretoria and played for Northerns, the Titans and the SA Academy, and made his test debut for New Zealand in 2012.
A notable omission from the group is Corey Anderson, who is unable to bowl because of a back injury he sustained at the World T20 in March.
“Having played in both Zimbabwe and SA last year we have some insight into what the pitches could be like this time around and we’ve selected our squad accordingly,” Hesson said.
“Playing two tests in Harare we need to be prepared for dry turning surfaces, but also know Durban often has a good covering of grass.”
All good, coach, but the six one-day internationals and three T20s your team played in Zimbabwe and SA last August won’t have told you much about test pitches there at this time of year.
Not one of the 215 tests SA have played at home since 1889 have been staged in July or August, but Zimbabwe hosted two tests in July, 2001 and have played four at home in August since 2005.
Hesson will hope to get all his facts and theories lined up during the eight-day camp his squad will have in Johannesburg after they leave New Zealand on July 11. Then it’s off to Zimbabwe, where the first test starts on July 29.
New Zealand squad: Kane Williamson (captain), Trent Boult, Doug Bracewell, Mark Craig, Martin Guptill, Matt Henry, Tom Latham, Henry Nicholls, Luke Ronchi, Jeet Raval, Mitchell Santner, Ish Sodhi, Tim Southee, Ross Taylor, Neil Wagner, BJ Watling.