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New Zealand

New Zealand at its 'healthiest in a long time' – Gary Stead

New Zealand news

Gary Stead, the New Zealand Head Coach, said the position of the team was the "healthiest it's been in a long time" ahead of the ICC Men's Cricket World Cup 2019.

New Zealand have five one-day internationals scheduled against India from 23 January and they head in after seeing off Sri Lanka 3-0 at home. Stead said he was happy with how the squad was shaping up before the mega event in England and Wales.

"There are a number of guys who are sticking their hand up and that is a great problem to have," he said. "I would say the position of the team and the players we have is the healthiest it's been for a long time, and that is a testament to the work the guys are putting in."

New Zealand have been bolstered by Mitchell Santner, the left-arm spinner, who returns to the squad after nine months. He, along with Ish Sodhi and Todd Astle, who isn't the squad for the India series but remains a viable spin option, give New Zealand depth in that department.

"It's great that we have Mitch back, he's a world-class performer and we are really excited to have him back in the fold," Stead said. "We've been monitoring how he's been going. It's unlikely he'll play in every match [against India] and we just want to be a bit cautious around his comeback after the injury he's had.

"In Astle, Sodhi and Santner we have three guys who have performed well. Personally, I've always been a fan of leg-spinners because I think they can still spin the ball both ways and provide a real point of difference. There is a possibility that [three spinners] could still happen."

While spin bowling is healthy, there's no dearth of all-rounders either, with the likes of Jimmy Neesham, Corey Anderson, Doug Bracewell and Santner all competing for places.

"Guys who can provide three to five overs and help balance it up is a definite advantage," said Stead. "If he's not doing that, then he's up against the batsman and needs to prove he is better than them.

"The all-rounder's positions is being hugely sought after, we probably have four people who are genuine contenders for two or three spots."

But if New Zealand are to fit in three spinners and at least two all-rounders, it could mean giving up on the option of playing a specialist wicket-keeper. But Henry Nicholls, who has been in prime form with the bat, has taken up the gloves when needed.

"It's a possibility; Henry has had a little bit of keeping in the past and again that's a selection question when we sit down to finalise the squad of 15 and work out the balance we need," Stead said on the possibility of Nicholls being a back-up 'keeper.

"We'll work out whether we go that way or have a genuine person who keeps all the time as balance."

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