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West Indies host New Zealand in three-Test series starting from June 8, 2014. West Indies are on a five-match win-less streak and three of them were against New Zealand away. With Denesh Ramdin at the helm, West Indies head into the new era in their cricket. Shrikant Shankar writes that West Indies will have battle hard to get a series win versus a confident New Zealand side.
As Denesh Ramdin was chosen the new West Indies captain, the team had taken its first steps into a new era. Darren Sammy announced retirement from the five-day format as well. It is the second week of June in 2014 and West Indies are about to play their first Test in the year. Most of their star players participated in the almost two-month long Indian Premier League (IPL) 2014 and before that was the ICC World T20 2014. Somehow, Test cricket has taken a back seat in the Caribbean.
Now there is a chance to get the five-day flavour back. West Indies host New Zealand in a three-match Test series. Late in 2013, West Indies lost a three-match Test series 2-0 in New Zealand. There were some inexplicable batting collapses. There are a lot of problems that West Indies face at the moment. The West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) will be keen to stop all those issues, but things will take time. While not facing Australia, England or South Africa may have helped the players’ morale, New Zealand are no easy fodder.
New Zealand were strong at home winning against West Indies and then India. Almost all their players contributed to the victories. They were also lead well by Brendon McCullum. West Indies captain Ramdin will have to get the respect of his team quickly to execute the ideas. He will have the ever-green Shivnarine Chanderpaul alongside him. More experience is there in the form of Chris Gayle, Marlon Samuels and Darren Bravo. These three along with Chanderpaul will have to do the bulk of the scoring.
Then there is Kraigg Brathwaite. The right-handed opener has a painstaking strike-rate of 32.91 in Tests. While he can provide solidity, runs have to be scored – whichever the format. Kirk Edwards is also part of the squad and his numbers are good but can improve. Kieran Powell is another option to open the batting with Gayle. The more experienced batsmen have to get the centuries regularly. This will help the youngsters to be a little more relaxed while playing themselves.
The fast bowling department got a boost as fast bowler Jerome Taylor made a return to the Test squad after almost fours being out. One will have to wait and watch if he does bowl as fast as he used to. If he does get some kind of rhythm, then Taylor can be very difficult to face. He will be partnered with Kemar Roach to take the large share of the wickets. Roach is another fast bowler and can get the ball to swing. If the duo do hit it off as a team, then the New Zealand batsmen will have their work cut out.
Jason Holder has been included in the squad, but is yet to make his debut in the Test side. Him and Shannon Gabriel provide the remaining options in the fast-bowling department. There are two spinners in the squad. One is Shane Shillingford, whose action has been under the scanner over the last few months. The off-spinner is the main spinner and will have to bowl a lot of overs if required without letting all the illegal bowling action talk get to him. There is another comeback in the Test side with Sulieman Benn.
The 6’7″ tall left-arm spinner has not played for West Indies in a Test match since December 2010. He is not a great turner of the ball, but his height will come to use. Overall, one really cannot make out what will exactly happen during the course of the series as the West Indies side is very unpredictable. But if they pull together and in home conditions, a much-needed win over New Zealand is possible.
(Shrikant Shankar is a writer/reporter at CricketCountry.com. Previously he has done audio commentary for various matches involving India, Indian Premier League and Champions League Twenty20 for ESPNSTAR.com. You can follow him on Twitter @Shrikant_23)
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