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December 18, 2013
It sums up the situation West Indies find themselves in that their main hope of squaring the series against New Zealand appears to rest with a bowler who averages nearly 50 in Test cricket and hasn't played a first-class match since March.
Sunil Narine, the West Indies offspinner, has been on the verge of playing throughout this series, but the green pitches have halted West Indies' desire to pick two spinners. Now, though, Shane Shillingford's suspension has cleared his path, although it is asking an awful lot for him to turn their fortunes around.
Much has been made of his 12 wickets in two Tests against New Zealand last year in the Caribbean, but they came on very different surfaces and against a batting line-up not buoyed by the recent home success Brendon McCullum's players have enjoyed.
However, Darren Sammy believes Narine can still be a trump card for West Indies. "It plays on the mind of the batsman knowing that he's got so many different variations and balls in his armoury, so that in itself is a little bit of mystery," Sammy said.
"Obviously Test cricket has not been his best format but he's still young in international cricket and he poses a threat on any type of wicket he plays on."
New Zealand are certainly wary of Narine and have been studying extra footage during this series in case he made the starting XI. Added help could also come courtesy of some insider knowledge from McCullum which he built up at the IPL while playing alongside Narine for Kolkata Knight Riders.
"I've had the luxury of playing a lot of cricket with him at IPL and spending a bit of time in the nets as well," McCullum said. "He's a far better bowler now than what he was when he first came into international cricket. I think he's managed to develop his game nicely, and while he's had some struggles so far with the red ball, he did bowl well against us in the Caribbean
"Some of the stuff that we talk about is that some of the guys will watch the ball from the hand and try to read the variations, and other guys try and pick up length. It'll be interesting to see over the next five days how it transpires."
There is a strong chance West Indies would have played Narine and Shillingford in tandem regardless of the pitch for this final Test after the poor displays from their fast bowlers, and Sammy wore a resigned expression when reflecting on the past week.
"We can use Shillingford's suspension as a force. Since that second Test nothing seems to be going in our favour. It just keeps piling on. The players have to play and try to give an extra 20% - be hungry, be selfish, whatever it takes. That's the only way we can beat New Zealand in these conditions. It will take a big effort from us, but it's not something that's impossible."
Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfoFeeds: Andrew McGlashan
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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