New Zealand v West Indies, 3rd Test, Hamilton December 18, 2013

West Indies pin hopes on Narine

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 ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on December 19, 2013, 2:23 GMT

    Zulu is absolutely bang on. Hope Naraine is listening. The best way to force his way into this sorry team would be by improving his batting. The selectors would then be hard pressed to ignore him. The WI team is in serious trouble. It will take a while to rebuild and get back to its former glory. Since Lara retired, there hasn't been any super star in the team. Chris Gayle was promising but just didn't deliver when it mattered most. He seems to thrive in IPL like formats only, for whatever reason.

  • Dummy4 on December 18, 2013, 22:11 GMT

    David Warner came straight from playing only 20/20 to the test format. It seems like the administrators from these other nations understand something about spotting and developing talent which the WI selectors have not yet tapped into.

  • rajesh on December 18, 2013, 20:35 GMT

    if narine and co are smart and that is debatable, he would be used primarily to build pressure and create opps to take wickets at the other end. time to "hunt in packs"

  • Dummy4 on December 18, 2013, 15:26 GMT

    I love the observation of davidsobers and Matt Gibb! Time to implement action and forget the long talk!!! In the meantime, no matter what Narine tries, the conditions there are not going to favor him.

  • Dummy4 on December 18, 2013, 15:20 GMT

    sammy talks too much and in so doing exposes his lack of intelligence. If Narine is so dangerous (according to him) why did he not play in the first two tests.this is part of the west indies problem , lack of clarity in their thinking ( captain, coach,mananger,selectors). God help us in the west indies/

  • Dummy4 on December 18, 2013, 12:31 GMT

    David Warner came straight from playing only 20/20 to the test format. It seems like the administrators from these other nations understand something about spotting and developing talent which the WI selectors have not yet tapped into.

  • Dummy4 on December 18, 2013, 12:17 GMT

    Narine needs to play more tests regardless. The selectors need to stick with him and give him a solid 30 tests regardless of performance. At 25 years old, he can be a real asset for WI. He is reasonably handy with the bat as well and can hang around with the bottom order and put on a pesky 40-50 runs at the tail end of innings. If I were Narine I'd go and work on my batting and force my way into the test team as an All-Rounder. That is if he -or any of these young players- even have any hunger to represent their nation in the longer format. Best of luck to him in this next match

  • davey on December 18, 2013, 6:46 GMT

    the tendency to see cricketers as specialist in certain formats right now does not work for the west indies people like sunil narine and keiron pollard shoud be playing more test cricket instead of being seen as purely short format players i think their game would improve over time

  • Dummy4 on December 18, 2013, 6:38 GMT

    It all starts with you, Darren. If you set good, aggressive fields, give your bowlers something to bowl to, support them no matter what, and bat responsibly, you can lead from the front. Enough talk and failures.

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