New Zealand Test skipper Tim Southee regarded the longest format as the pinnacle of the game, while reflecting on his team selections ahead of the first of two Tests against England, beginning Thursday, 16 February.
Having gone down to India in T20Is as well as ODIs on their recent tour, New Zealand are set to kickstart their home season with a two-match Test series against England, with the first Test to be played at the Bay Oval, Mount Maunganui from Thursday.
Blair Tickner, the 29-year-old right-arm quick, is set to make his Test debut in the series opener, as confirmed by Blackcaps skipper Tim Southee, with a host of premier quicks unavailable.
Senior quick Trent Boult, having stepped back from his national contract last year, isn’t a part of the squad, while Kyle Jamieson will miss the series with a back injury. Matt Henry too, is unavailable for the first Test as he awaits the birth of his first child. That presents a great opportunity for Tickner, who has bagged 13 wickets from nine ODIs and 16 scalps from 17 T20Is in a fairly young international career to date.
“He’s been around the group for a while now and had a taste in the one-day and T20 formats,” Southee said of Tickner. “It’s exciting for him and his family for what should be a very special occasion.”
England captain Ben Stokes too, spoke highly of Tickner, having watched him from close quarters during a domestic stint in the country back in 2017.
“Any team without Trent Boult playing against you gives you a little bit – we know he’s a quality performer,” said Stokes. “I played out here for Canterbury a few years ago and played against Tickner, he’s a big fella. Runs in and hits the deck hard. Yeah, I think he loves to get into the contest.”
Though the series is not a part of the ongoing ICC Men’s World Test Championship 2021-23 cycle, there’s an added spice to it even before the start. England, under Stokes and Test coach Brendon McCullum, have embraced an ultra-aggressive style of play ever since the two took over in their respective roles at the start of last home summer, having won nine of the ten Tests since – a run that started with a 3-0 sweep of New Zealand at home.
The Blackcaps meanwhile, haven’t lost a Test series at home since their 0-1 defeat to South Africa back in 2017.
Southee acknowledged his former New Zealand skipper McCullum’s influence on Test cricket during his ongoing stint as the England coach, regarding the format as the “pinnacle” of the game.
“I think if you ask the majority of people they still see Test cricket as the pinnacle,” Southee said. “Credit to Ben and Brendon (McCullum) and the way they’ve turned things around and made it exciting for people to come and watch and be part of it.
“Just look at the ticket sales for this series, there’s still plenty of interest in Test cricket and that’s exciting. For me it’s still the pinnacle of the game. Times are changing with franchise cricket and short-format cricket, but the majority of players still see it as the pinnacle.”