Kingston: The superstitious would regard this team as being slightly jinxed but New Zealand, in actual cricketing terms, need a herculean effort to turn the tide and combat West Indies ahead of the second ODI here on Saturday.
You haven't played together as a team for three months. Forget warm-up games, you arrive for a long tour in completely different conditions from home without even a camp for the entire squad. One of your best batsmen, also your first-choice wicketkeeper, who has already had a month's break, is "rested" for the limited-overs leg of the tour. After you get hammered in the Twenty20s, there emerge reports of his arriving sometime "midway" during the ODI series, but scarcely anyone has a clue when exactly he is expected to reach, while his side gets thrashed again in the first ODI.
Another of your top batsmen is trading blows in a boxing ring, an allrounder is busy playing domestic T20s in England, and to top it all, you have lost your regular captain to injury in the first match of the tour. Welcome to an ongoing demonstration on How Not To Approach A Cricket Tour, or New Zealand's tour of West Indies.
That they have managed to make fellow strugglers West Indies look like some dominating force says it all. It was expected that their batsmen would have no clue against Sunil Narine, but tackling slight swing and bounce was supposed to be no great task. Their batting has looked utterly incapable in Florida and in Jamaica so far. Ross Taylor is expected to be out for some time; who knows when Brendon McCullum is going to arrive? What can this tattered New Zealand side do to turn around what is quickly becoming a horror tour? For starters, they can pray for a halt to the injuries before they run out of 11 fit players.
West Indies must be overflowing with confidence. Albeit playing with one medium-pace allrounder too many, including the captain, they appear a powerful side in these conditions; wonder why they don't win more often. Can they find some consistency?
West Indies WLLLW (completed games, most recent first)
New Zealand LLLLW
Watch out for...
New Zealand have to get Chris Gayle early. Three matches, three brutal fifties, three easy wins. At least that will ensure there is some sort of contest. At the moment, Gayle is just biffing straight sixes, without expression and with minimal follow-through.
The visitors have lacked the kind of starts Gayle has given West Indies. And have never recovered thereon. Martin Guptill has to somehow revive his Derbyshire form.
Barring injuries, West Indies should stick to the same XI which won by nine wickets on Thursday.
West Indies: (possible) 1 Lendl Simmons, 2 Chris Gayle, 3 Dwayne Smith, 4 Marlon Samuels, 5 Dwayne Bravo, 6 Kieron Pollard, 7 Andre Russell, 8 Darren Sammy (capt), 9 Denesh Ramdin (wk), 10 Ravi Rampaul, 11 Sunil Narine
Andrew Ellis joined the injury list in the first ODI. New Zealand have Doug Bracewell and Trent Boult available. It was an interesting decision to play legspinner Tarun Nethula ahead of the experienced offspinner Nathan McCullum on Thursday. Probably it was influenced by the fact that West Indies have only left-hander, Gayle, in the top nine. At least New Zealand have a few bowling options left. Wicketkeeper Tom Latham is the only batting replacement available in the squad, but last heard, he had cut his eye during training. If this wasn't actually happening, it would be tragi-comic.
New Zealand: (possible) 1 Rob Nicol, 2 Martin Guptill, 3 Daniel Flynn, 4 Kane Williamson (capt), 5 Dean Brownlie, 6 BJ Watling (wk), 7 Jacob Oram, 8 Tim Southee, 9 Nathan McCullum/Doug Bracewell, 10 Tarun Nethula 11 Kyle Mills