West Indies in New Zealand: Four-pronged attack
Brian Lara, the West Indian captain, plays spin-bowling rather well, and he also has learned to play the Press conference game with equal dexterity.
Questioned about the likely West Indian Test side for the first Test starting at WestpacTrust Park in Hamilton (at 7 p.m. tonight Barbados time), Lara told the New Zealand reporters that he wanted West Indies to go into the Test 'with a four-pronged' attack.
In New Zealand cricketing jargon that means four fast-medium bowlers and perhaps a spinner.
'That does not mean the same thing to us,' said Lara. 'We have five quicks, an off-spinner and a leg-spinner; they are all under consideration for the Test and it is just a matter which four prongs of the seven we have.'
The West Indians raised their eyebrows when they glimpsed the Test pitch at WestpacTrust Park (formerly Seddon Park) at their first training there yesterday.
The pitch had a distinctly green tinge and the West Indians must have automatically began to think about four fast-bowling prongs.
However, Clive Lloyd, the West Indian manager who is wise to the ways of New Zealand pitches, said the selectors would wait and see how the pitch looked after the grass had been trimmed.
He added that the selectors might then have to gamble on winning the toss and bowling first if they wanted to make the early and decisive breakthrough with the classical West Indies attack of four fast bowlers.
Nehemiah Perry, the off-spinner, may rank ahead of Dinanath Ramnarine, the leg-spinner, on the basis that Perry had the stronger workout with his 37-13-67-2 figures against Auckland. Ramnarine had only two brief spells against New Zealand 'A' at Taupo. However in his two Tests Ramnarine gained comparable figures (nine for 49) with Perry's ten for 326 in three Tests.
An impartial New Zealander might suggest that New Zealand batsman have more difficulty against quality leg-spin bowling, which is rare in this country, compared with routine off-spin bowling, which is fairly commonplace.
That is a problem the West Indian selectors will have to face, or they may revert to older tactics and play four fast bowlers and rely on the part-time spinners: Jimmy Adams and Shivnarine Chanderpaul.
Lara was not letting out any state secrets when he said Courtney Walsh would be the first bowler selected. On reputation, Franklyn Rose might be second, and that would leave Reon King, Mervyn Dillon and Pedro Collins competing for one or two places - with Collins enjoying some favouritism as he provides the left-armed variation.
The West Indies batting, from bottom to top, should have Ridley Jacobs, Ricardo Powell, Adams, Lara, Chanderpaul, Sherwin Campbell and the other opening choice between incumbent Adrian Griffith and challenger Darren Ganga.
New Zealand seem to be issuing bulletins on the hour about the state of Dion Nash's fitness. The boisterous medium-fast bowler and useful low-order batsman suffered a back injury during the recent tour of India and has been under intense treatment ever since.
The selectors would dearly love to have Nash in the side not only for his cricketing ability but also for the fact that he is perhaps the only candidate with the in-your-face arrogance which seems a necessary part of a Test cricketer's equipment these days.
Nash leads the New Zealand sledging and can be quite abrasive if he thinks batsmen expect him to clear their running lanes between the wickets.
Should Nash be fit he would join Chris Cairns and Shayne O'Connor in the seam attack. O'Connor would be there on the theory that his left-arm away-swing will trouble the West Indies left-hand batsmen. They will be supported by slow left-armer Daniel Vettori and medium-pacer Nathan Astle.
There have been confident noises coming from new national coach Dave Trist that the New Zealanders are Test-ready after having a holiday following the Indian tour.
Most of them have not had a first-class game in four weeks, and a planned two-dayer against Canterbury last weekend was ruined after the selectees batted for most of the first day, and rain washed out the second.
In contrast West Indies have had two solid work-outs against New Zealand 'A' and Auckland.
Lara speaks with confidence that his team is ready for a Test. The New Zealanders can only hope they are similarly well-prepared.
West Indies (from): Brian Lara (captain), Sherwin Campbell, Adrian Griffith, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Ricardo Powell, Jimmy Adams, Ridley Jacobs, Franklyn Rose, Pedro Collins, Nehemiah Perry, Mervyn Dillon, Courtney Walsh.
New Zealand (from): Stephen Fleming (captain), Matthew Horne, Gary Stead, Craig Spearman, Nathan Astle, Craig McMillan, Adam Parore, Chris Cairns, Dion Nash, Daniel Vettori, Shane O'Connor, Andrew Penn, Paul Wiseman.