I didn’t know a lot about Jeet Raval, the Black Caps opener, and I’m sure many others don’t either.
Raval is in line to be selected for the upcoming series against Australia, but probably not based on form. It’s more a case of not many candidates being suitable for the position.
In his last nine innings he has scored 83 runs at an average of 9.2, in which time he scored a maiden century against Bangladesh in February. It’s hardly the sort of run of form that gives you confidence against a formidable Australian side in fine form at present.
Jeet Raval is a left-hand batsman, aged 31 and born in India. He moved to New Zealand when he was 16 and when selected for the New Zealand under-19 team played a series against his country of birth. That Indian team included such notables as Virat Kohli, Ravindra Jadeja and Ishant Sharma.
Raval was named in the 15-man squad for both series against England and Australia, but will he be selected for the first Test on 12 December? News from the Kiwi squad today suggests they are keen to stick with the opener, although former New Zealand player Mark Richardson says Raval should be dropped.
If another candidate was pressing his claims, Raval would probably be dumped, but the cupboard is rather bare at present. A solution would be to select a makeshift opener such as BJ Watling, Henry Nicholls or even newcomer Daryl Mitchell. Anything above an average of 9.2 surely would be a bonus.
It would be preferable for a good opening partnership be established for the likes of Taylor and Williamson to attack with more freedom. For the Black Caps to do well against Australia they need a solid platform to start with.
Does Jeet Raval have the mental strength needed to be successful against Australia? Take a punt on him or experiment with a temporary opening batsman?
Raval will play a key role, and if he succeeds, the Black Caps chances increase significantly.
I suspect he will be picked for the opening Test, but if he fails in that, they cannot risk him again in the following Tests.
The Black Caps’ stunning victory in the ICC World Test Championship, a real David versus Goliath affair, shows that for its limited population and resources, plenty of talent, determination and drive to succeed resides in New Zealand.