Wellington Firebirds Jimmy Neesham and Tom Blundell have been named in the BLACKCAPS squad for the ICC Cricket World Cup that starts in May.
New Zealand is the first country to name their squad for the England and Wales based tournament in May, June and July; the announcement taking place at Tai Tapu School in Canterbury, in a nod to former pupil and World Cup debutant, Henry Nicholls.
The call-up is just reward for Neesham who has revived his career in Wellington this summer, helping the Firebirds clinch the Ford Trophy title in December and earning his BLACKCAPS recall for the home ODI series against Sri Lanka and India.
The 28-year-old was second top-scorer in the Ford Trophy campaign and grabbed his BLACKCAPS recall with two hands, scoring 123 runs and taking crucial wickets in the three-match Sri Lanka series.
Blundell is the obvious bolter in the squad, named as back-up wicketkeeper to Tom Latham who will continue with the gloves.
The 28-year-old, selected over Tim Seifert for his superior wicketkeeping ability, is yet to feature in an ODI for the BLACKCAPS, but has represented New Zealand in two tests and three T20s.
Kane Williamson will captain the squad featuring more than 1000 games of ODI experience.
Ross Taylor is set to become the seventh New Zealander to play at four Cricket World Cups, while it will be the third time at the 50-over showpiece for Williamson, Tim Southee and Martin Guptill.
Trent Boult, Matt Henry and speedster Lockie Ferguson round off the pace-bowlers with Mitchell Santner and Ish Sodhi selected as the spinners.
Colin de Grandhomme and Neesham have claimed the seam-bowling all-rounders spots, while Nicholls and Colin Munro are the other specialist batsmen.
Coach Gary Stead said it was a proud day for all involved, not least the eight players who will be attending a World Cup for the first time.
“The World Cup is the pinnacle of cricket and to be the first nation to name a squad for the tournament is really exciting.
“I’d like to congratulate all the players selected. To represent your country at a World Cup is a huge honour and I know the entire squad and support staff are looking forward to the challenges ahead.
“As with any squad named for a major tournament, there’s had to be some tough calls and there will be some disappointed players.
“The key for us was finding the right balance for the squad and making sure we had our bases covered for what is going to be a very competitive World Cup.
“As a one-day unit we’ve been pretty consistent over the past few years and possess a very experienced group of core players, proven at the top level.
“We will have three training camps through April which will involve many players who are not in this squad as it’s important they’re ready on stand-by should we lose anybody in the lead up to or at the tournament.”
The BLACKCAPS will hold wider-training camps in Lincoln on April 15-16, April 23-24 and April 30 – May 1, before a New Zealand XI squad will head to Australia for three unofficial one-dayers in early May.
BLACKCAPS ICC Cricket World Cup Squad
Kane Williamson (c) – 139* (Northern Districts)
Tom Blundell – 0 (Wellington Firebirds)
Trent Boult – 79 (Northern Districts)
Colin de Grandhomme – 28 (Northern Districts)
Lockie Ferguson – 27 (Auckland Aces)
Martin Guptill – 169 (Auckland Aces)
Matt Henry – 43 (Canterbury)
Tom Latham – 85 (Canterbury)
Colin Munro – 51 (Auckland Aces)
Jimmy Neesham – 49 (Wellington Firebirds)
Henry Nicholls – 41 (Canterbury)
Mitchell Santner – 59 (Northern Districts)
Ish Sodhi – 30 (Northern Districts)
Tim Southee – 139 (Northern Districts)
Ross Taylor – 218 (Central Stags)
*Number denotes ODI caps