The New Zealanders are returning from an expected 2-0 Test series defeat in Australia while West Indies were blanked 3-0 by an ever mercurial Pakistan in a one-day tournament. The two sides would be looking to get into some sort of winning momentum and this series is possibly the best chance for both.
When two struggling but well-matched sides face each other, it can often lead to an engrossing contest. This is exactly the scenario in waiting as New Zealand and West Indies get ready to go into battle. The New Zealanders are returning from an expected 2-0 Test series defeat in Australia while West Indies were blanked 3-0 by an ever mercurial Pakistan in a one-day tournament. The two sides would be looking to get into some sort of winning momentum and this series is possibly the best chance for both.
New Zealand, of course, will have an advantage playing at home. But they struggled with their combination against Australia and thus have made some major changes. The good news for the home side is that all-rounders Jacob Oram and James Franklin are back after serving time out of the game due to injury problems. However, you cannot expect them to fire on all cylinders right away. Then will need some time to settle into the scheme of things again which means the others will have to step up their game. Another major worry for the Kiwis is their highly inexperienced squad. Apart from the abovementioned two, only Daniel Vettori and Brendon McCullum are seasoned campaigners.
There have been guys who have been around for a while now but their performances have not been up to the mark. Ross Taylor has been impressive no doubt but he needs to be more consistent and register bigger scores. Spinner Jeetan Patel too has done reasonably well but he has been playing the supporting role to Vettori. The likes of Peter Fulton, Mark Gillespie and Chris Martin have been in and out of the side consistently and there will come a time when the selectors will have to decide on their future once and for all. Among the newcomers, Aaron Redmond and Tim Southee have impressed in phases. Surprisingly, both have been dropped for the series against West Indies along with Fulton and Martin. The men in charge need to be careful not to overdo the chopping and changing. True, they are struggling at the moment but one needs to realize that this is a transition phase in New Zealand cricket and it will take some time to repair the damage caused by the loss of Nathan Astle, Stephen Fleming and Shane Bond. Now that Tim McIntosh has been picked as the replacement for Redmond at the top of the order, he needs to be given a reasonable run.
Even as the New Zealanders try to rebuild, the story of West Indies cricket has not changed much in the last decade despite many changes in guard. Be it Brian Lara, Shivnarine Chanderpaul or now Chris Gayle, the Windies continue to struggle. And it is not difficult to decipher the reason behind it. Apart from Chanderpaul, who was named the ICC Cricketer of the Year, and skipper Chris Gayle, they haven't had any consistent performers with the bat. Ramnaresh Sarwan has flourished in phases but among the others no one has stood up. One wonders what would be the state of West Indies batting once these guys are gone. It may seem too early to raise this question but it is a fact that the nation hasn't produced a class batsman since this trio.
The picture isn't all that rosy in the bowling department either. Fidel Edwards, Daren Powell and Jerome Taylor are reasonably good and earnest pacemen but far from the threat produced by Walsh and Ambrose. This again has been one of the chief reasons why West Indies have stopped being a force in international cricket. The appointment of wicketkeeper Denesh Ramdin as the new vice-captain in the shorter format is a step taken looking at the future. But Ramdin has done little to prove his credentials as a batsman and needs to be consistent if he needs to earn the respect of his mates.
Looking at the two sides, one has to say that New Zealand hold a slight edge going into the series. But despite being inconsistent, West Indies still retain the ability of shocking the best on their day. A couple of magical performances can turn the tide in their favour. Bet at your own risk.