Senior pacer Trent Boult has made himself unavailable for the two-Test series against India due to bio-bubble fatigue as New Zealand on Thursday named five spinners in its 15-man squad for the tour, starting November 25 in Kanpur.
Both Boult and pace-bowling all-rounder Colin de Grandhomme decided to skip the tour, having stayed extended period in multiple bio-bubbles.
"Boult and Colin de Grandhomme made themselves unavailable for selection due to the prospect of further time in bio-secure bubbles and Managed Isolation," New Zealand Cricket's official website stated.
Black Caps head coach Gary Stead said players' welfare remains paramount.
"Trent has already spent the best part of 60 days in hard managed isolation this year, while Colin had been on the road since May until recently returning home from Pakistan.
"From talking to both players it was clear the best option for them was to be left out of this Test tour and for them to instead focus on being ready for the New Zealand home summer," Stead said.
The Blackcaps will travel with five spinners, including the seasoned trio of Ajaz Patel, Will Somerville and Mitchell Santner. They will be supported by youngsters Rachin Ravindra and Glenn Phillips.
The spin-heavy attack makes sense since conditions in the series-opener (Kanpur, November 25-29) and the second Test (Mumbai, December 3-7) are expected to suit the slower bowlers.
Tim Southee, Neil Wagner and Kyle Jamieson are the pace options.
Glenn Phillips has been selected in the Test squad for the first time since debuting against Australia as a late replacement in 2020 when the Blackcaps camp was struck by illness on the eve of the New Year’s Test in Sydney.
The 21-year-old Ravindra made his New Zealand debut in a T20I against Bangladesh in September and, although, he toured England with the Test side earlier this year, he is yet to play in the longest form of the game.
Patel and Somerville are set to lead the spin attack and have a particularly impressive record when playing together, combining for 28 wickets in their three Tests as teammates: against Pakistan in Abu Dhabi in 2018, and Sri Lanka in Galle and Colombo in 2019.
The India Test series will be the first for New Zealand without wicket-keeping stalwart BJ Watling since his retirement following the World Test Championship final win in England. Tom Blundell is set to take over the Test gloves.
Stead said they'd very much taken a horses-for-courses approach when picking the tour squad.
"Touring India is one of the greatest experiences in cricket and I know our guys are really looking forward to the challenge. It's fair to say we are expecting spin-friendly conditions and it’s great to have a range of options in this department," Stead said.
The coach is confident that New Zealand spinners would do well.
"The success of our spinners on recent tours to the sub-continent has been encouraging and we hope they can once again feature prominently.
"It's really exciting to begin the second instalment of the WTC and we know there’ll be an extra incentive for all the teams we play following our win in the inaugural competition."