July 24, 2012

Five factors to beat New Zealand

If West Indies win the two-Test series, it will affirm that Sammy and Gibson's efforts to rebuild the side have been worth it

The latest ICC Test rankings put West Indies below New Zealand. Only perennial wooden-spooners Bangladesh are lower.

West Indies and New Zealand will view the upcoming Test series as an opportunity to gain some much-needed points. For West Indies, in particular, it is a big chance for upward mobility. Two-nil Test series losses at home to Australia and away to England have tempered a year so far in which Darren Sammy's side has raised its stocks in limited-overs cricket.

West Indies' T20 and one-day successes over New Zealand, along with the drawn home series with Australia in both those formats in March, have raised expectations that a period of sustained success may not be too far away. The false dawns, however, have come as frequently as the sun has risen over the islands. A Test series success over New Zealand will not in itself mark the start of better times, but victory will be an important landmark in the development of this side under Sammy.

He and coach Ottis Gibson need this Test series win to finish off the home season. They need it as proof that their rebuilding project is indeed gaining momentum and that they deserve more time to see it through.

West Indies chairman of selectors Clyde Butts emphasised how his panel is viewing this series when he said: "The selectors feel New Zealand is the team that we have got to show that we are capable of winning matches [against]. New Zealand is just ahead of us in the rankings, and I think would be what I would call our first test in terms of how we are moving forward."

Comprehensive success in the limited-overs games was a confidence booster. But over the two Tests in Antigua and Jamaica, Sammy and Co have to show how much they have learned in defeat this year. Here are five things that can determine whether West Indies can finish the season in style.

The Gayle factor
New Zealand had no answer for the big man in the two Florida T20s, and lost both. In his yard, in Sabina Park, Gayle imposed himself again in the first two ODIs to give West Indies a 2-0 series lead. In the third match, in St Kitts, however, New Zealand picked up Gayle cheaply to complete a comfortable win. Since that first failure, Gayle has not got hold of the bowling. But his runs and the time he spends at the crease in these two Tests will be vital if West Indies are to put up winning totals.

Top-order stability
So far this season, West Indies' top four have not produced anywhere near the required quantity of runs in Tests. There has been extraordinary pressure on Shivnarine Chanderpaul and the lower order. Gayle's input should make a difference. But this series is the ideal one for Marlon Samuels to emphasise that he is now a run scorer to be relied upon.

The Narine factor
After 15 overs in Test cricket, Sunil Narine is still waiting to claim his first wicket. It is difficult to see that barren run lasting too long against New Zealand. He may not have the advantage of being able to attack batsmen forced to be aggressive, as in the shorter formats, but New Zealand might as well have been trying to read Braille when they tried to figure out which way Narine would spin the ball. They may not have enough time in this series to work out a successful way of playing him.

Handling Vettori
As perhaps the best exponent of left-arm spin in the game at present, Vettori has both the experience and guile to embarrass the West Indies batsmen. How effective he is with both ball and bat may decide the series.

Applying the basics
"They are not an easy team to beat," Butts acknowledged. "Even when we had our strongest team, New Zealand was always a tough team for West Indies to beat." To overcome a side that has always prided itself on battling to the end, West Indies will have to play with a consistency that continues to elude them. And to do that, Sammy's side must get the basics right and play steady. With that formula, West Indies may just find that the key moments in this series will go their way.

Garth Wattley is a writer with the Trinidad Express

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Rhonda on July 25, 2012, 13:24 GMT

    @ranpath have you forgotten that our team was even more inexperienced when we faced Australia and England? Or does that excuse only apply when higher ranked teams are beaten by lower ranked teams? @StephonTT so when Sarwan, Chanders, Nash, Taylor, Gayle and so on were in the side when Gayle was captain, he didn't have good pieces? @ranpath and stephonTT face it--Sammy has bought discipline and fighting spirit. That was what was absent before, not talent, experience or skill. To hear @ranpath talk, fighting spirit doesn't matter, but that's ridiculous. The only reason New Zealand was above us for so long was that self-same determination that Windies is now displaying. Go Sammy! Go Windies! And I'm a Trini, @Werner, but I agree with you. We are all West Indians. Some just seem to be too bitter to even give Jack his jacket no matter how well we do. They'll be right there to demand heads if we lose though. As if all teams don't lose sooner or later.

  • Dummy4 on July 25, 2012, 11:55 GMT

    Underestimate NZ at yr peril West Indies - We drew with Australia in a two test series recently one each - when was the last time the West indies did that? Vettori is the worlds best left arm spinner and forget the warm up games because NZ drew their warm up game in Australia as well. Wagner is an aggressive left armer and this is his first test for NZ and he is world class when he is at his best. This is guy who took 5 wickets in one over last year and that is hard to do anytime anywhere any place and he clean bowled 4 of them with unplayable deliveries so if you think NZ will be push overs at test level you are kidding yourself. You played well in short games and hats off to yr team for that but the five day game is different animal all together

  • Dummy4 on July 25, 2012, 11:47 GMT

    sammy deserve his place as captain!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Dummy4 on July 25, 2012, 11:26 GMT

    Sammy is St. Lucian by the way

  • Dummy4 on July 25, 2012, 11:25 GMT

    Windies inability to finish off opponents after good early breakthroughs is what I found disappointing. Ultra cuatious field setting, erratic and futile use of boucers allow opponents lower order batsmen to recover and make record breaking and sometimes match winning partnerships. This is an area where the team needs to focus. Sir Viv, Ambrose and Walsh must look on in despair when that happens

  • RYAN on July 25, 2012, 7:28 GMT

    Sammy continues to reveal himself as a captain whose decision making is below par when compared to other captains. The so called "fight" was only possible due to the fact that WI played Australia when the latter was particularly vulnerable and WI showed "fighting spirit". In England Wi lost the first two tests comprehensively despite putting up some "fight" . In the last few months WI have twice put up big totals ( 400 + range) and still went on to lose the match. Last year in India, WI posted almost 600, took a 100+ lead and still almost lost !!!!!!!!!! Nevertheless I think that WI will defeat NZ, possibly even 2-0. But bear in mind that this NZ side, barring Vettori and Taylor, is relatively inexperienced. Chanderpaul alone for e.g. probably has more test experience than probably 3/4 of the NZ team combined.

  • James on July 25, 2012, 6:30 GMT

    @ Stephenn TT. The Windies were failing long before Sammy took the helm, so it is not fair to criticise his captaincy. He has at least introduced some fight and discipline. I think the biggest problem is Sammy is not a prolific wicket taker and doesn't justify a place in the team on bowling ability, leaving the attack short of potency.

  • Dummy4 on July 25, 2012, 0:34 GMT

    Please give Sammy a break. He is a good leader and a better performing all rounder than Bravo. Check the recent stats.

  • Dummy4 on July 25, 2012, 0:23 GMT

    stephon TT... just look at the stats and you will see that Sammy has performed creditably with the bat for windies. He averaged 31 against AUSTRALIA at home and 40 against England in England when all the big bats failed.

    Sammy on those stats deserve to be in the WI team as an allrounder. Speaking subject to correct he has moved his test average from 18 to 22 over the past year which more than suggests improvement.

    I am a SAMMY MAN and proud to say so even though im bajan and he's vincentian...we are both WESTINDIAN.

  • stephon on July 24, 2012, 22:55 GMT

    Five reasons for success and none has anything to do with Sammy yet a series victory would vindicate Sammy at the helm of the team. What a joke!!!! What Sammy has that his predecessors didn't is good pieces - Narine/Roach/Darren Bravo/a level headed Samuels

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