Why Aussie quicks will be licking their lips
JEET Raval's harrowing form has been acknowledged by Gary Stead, but the New Zealand coach has backed his opener to step up in the cauldron of a Test series in Australia.
Stead has confirmed Raval will face the new ball with Tom Latham in next week's first Test at Perth despite his barren run since scoring a maiden century against Bangladesh nine months ago.
A host of commentators have demanded New Zealand consider alternatives against an Australian pace attack that made mincemeat of any batting uncertainty in the double-trouncing of Pakistan.
Stead refuted suggestions Raval would be a lamb to the slaughter following his five runs in the second Test against England in Hamilton, where his confidence appeared shot.
The coach reckoned the 31-year-old had the mental strength to return to his early career form of 2016-17, when he would occupy the crease for about a session on average.
However, his scoring average has dipped from the mid-40s in early 2018 to 32.3.
"Jeet didn't have a strong series but we've got confidence in him as an opening bat. He's got a very good record with Tom and they've forged a really strong partnership for us," Stead said.
"He eats into a good number of balls - 75 balls on average - and he's done it over a good period of time so far. I'm confident he can get us away to the start that we want."
Stability has been at the core of New Zealand's success, leaving Stead and co-selector Gavin Larsen reluctant to make reactionary change.
Their hands are tied somewhat too, with the 15-man squad named to straddle both the England and Australia series.
Raval is one of just five specialist batsmen, with wicketkeeper BJ Watling a fixture at No.6 and back-up gloveman Tom Blundell the only batting option to inject.
Captain Kane Williamson, who has become accustomed to face the new ball early this year, backed Raval to dig his way out.
"Batting's a tough thing whenever. Everybody's always working hard to try and improve and Jeet's no different to anyone else," Williamson said.