Pacer Trent Boult returned to the New Zealand Test side while Mumbai-born Ajaz Patel is in line for a dream appearance against India after the left-arm spinner was named Monday in the Black Caps’ 13-man squad for the two-Test series beginning in Wellington on Friday.
Boult had been out of action since injuring his right hand during the Boxing Day Test against Australia and had missed the limited-overs leg of the India tour earlier this month.
Patel played his first Test for New Zealand against Pakistan in 2018 but has only earned seven caps, with Black Caps’ selectors preferring all-rounder Mitchell Santner. But his domestic form this season has seen him dislodge Santner from the Test squad. Santner’s performance was under the scanner in the three-Test series against Australia, and he has struggled in the limited-overs leg of the India series as well.
“We’re excited to welcome back Ajaz who has done a great job for us overseas and has a proven domestic record in New Zealand conditions,” coach Gary Stead said.
Patel’s family moved to New Zealand when he was a child but the 31-year-old has always followed Indian cricket closely, rating visiting skipper Virat Kohli “the best in the world”.
Even after his debut two years ago, Patel’s thoughts were focused on one day playing India. Growing up in an Indian family, “you’re always passionate about cricket and you watch a lot of great Indian players just like I have watched New Zealand players”, he told AFP at the time.
On the prospects of bowling to Kohli, he said: “If that [chance] comes I will cherish it and give it the best crack.”
However, Patel is not guaranteed a start, with selectors believed to be considering a four-pronged pace attack for the first Test in Wellington.
That would give Kyle Jamieson a debut alongside Tim Southee, Neil Wagner and Trent Boult. Jamieson made his international debut earlier this month during the ODIs against India and was named Player of the Match award.
Daryl Mitchell comes in as an all-rounder, while opening batsman Jeet Raval was dropped from the squad after being demoted in favour of Tom Blundell during the recent series against Australia.
New Zealand: Kane Williamson (capt), Tom Blundell, Trent Boult, Colin de Grandhomme, Kyle Jamieson, Tom Latham, Daryl Mitchell, Henry Nicholls, Ajaz Patel, Tim Southee, Ross Taylor, Neil Wagner, BJ Watling.
With AFP Inputs