Sammy keen to keep that winning feeling
The West Indies captain Darren Sammy is quietly confident his side can continue their good showing against New Zealand when the series wraps up with the final Test in Jamaica, starting on Thursday. West Indies have struggled immensely in the past couple of years to put together consistent performances - it is ten years since they have won two consecutive Tests - and although a draw would be enough to clinch the series, Sammy wants to ensure the winning habit continues.
"It's a good feeling when you are winning," Sammy said. "We will remember the feeling we had in the T20s and the one-day series and we are 1-0 in the Test series. It's a feeling we want to keep in the dressing room. We are going to go out there the next five days and look to win this Test match.
"Winning is important for any team. For us, it [doesn't] come around too often. We've gotten ourselves in good positions over the last year and to win this Test series would mean a lot to the guys, especially with performances coming from young [Kieran] Powell, [Kemar] Roach and [Assad] Fudadin. These guys coming in to the dressing room are quite young, and [winning] makes the dressing room a little more cheerful."
Although West Indies have won all but one encounter during this New Zealand tour, Sammy isn't willing to look too far ahead or take a victory in Kingston for granted. West Indies will move ahead of New Zealand on the ICC Test rankings if they win or draw in Jamaica, but Sammy knows New Zealand are capable of fighting back.
"We have only half the job done in this series," he said. "We are playing an international team and we don't take them for granted. The way the team is playing, we're doing some good things, have to be positive and look to continue that."
West Indies need to decide on the make-up of their attack after Ravi Rampaul was ruled out due to a groin injury. Fidel Edwards, who has joined the squad, has a good record at Sabina Park, but Tino Best was part of the squad for the first Test and Sammy indicated that Best, who also provides useful batting down the order, could have the edge over Edwards on a pitch expected to offer more pace and bounce.
But the key for West Indies remains Sunil Narine. He bowled more than a third of the overs for the hosts in the first Test and since then has been mostly towards resting those sore fingers. "Narine is pulling [through] all right," Sammy said. "When I see him bowl all these many overs, I am tempted to take him off but he insists he wants to bowl. I'll be constantly talking to him and see how he feels and if he wants to keep bowling, then it is all good for the team."
Narine picked up eight wickets in Antigua but the New Zealand captain Ross Taylor believes his batsmen played Narine "pretty well", except for the "couple of unplayable balls" in the first Test. He said they had done all the preparation they could for facing Narine and his success wasn't down to being an unknown element.
"There was a lot of hype about him before the series and he had a very good IPL as well," Taylor said. "With a lot of the video analysis going on these days, you do get to see a lot of international cricket. There is only so much analysis you can do. Best thing is to get a look at it in person. You have to get confidence from facing him. The more you face him, the better you get at playing [him]."
Though the lone specialist spinner from the side that lost by nine wickets, Daniel Vettori, has been declared unfit, it is not a given that the legspinner Tarun Nethula will make his Test debut, considering his stock ball will be coming in to the left-handers, of which West Indies have five in their top six. Taylor said playing four fast men "is an option", similar to their memorable victory against Australia in Hobart in December, when Vettori didn't play due to injury.
It has been a tough tour for New Zealand, but it has given them the "nothing-to-lose" attitude going in to this Test. "We should have been able to draw the last Test match," Taylor said. "We have been outplayed but we are not too far from where we want to be."
That seems to be the mantra in the New Zealand side that gives them the belief that they can go on to win the Test match. It will also be John Wright's last outing with New Zealand as their coach, which adds to the occasion for New Zealand.
"John has been a good servant of NZC over the years, not only as a player but as a coach," Taylor said. "Obviously, I have a learnt a lot off him. He has had a lot to do with these youngsters. They will be up for this game and hopefully, give him a good send-off."
Wright's departure and the desire to stay ahead of West Indies in the rankings are extra motivation, but New Zealand's main goal is simply to turn around the form that has resulted in them winning only one match on the trip so far.
"Rankings play a big part, but winning a Test match is the ultimate," Taylor said. "We don't win a lot of games away from home in the recent times. That's the motivation factor for the team. We bat well, continue with the top three scoring the runs, and the middle order helps them out, we give ourselves a good chance."
Subash Jayaraman is a freelancer, blogger and podcaster based in Pennsylvania. He tweets here.