Dunedin:Andy Moles has one thing in his favor entering his first Test series as New Zealand coach. At least, in the standings, the Blacks Caps can't get any worse.
The prize for winning the two-match series against the West Indies, also going through some coaching and personnel transitions, will be swapping places so that New Zealand moves up one place to seventh in the ICC Test rankings and the once all-conquering Windies drop to eighth.
Moles is less than a week into his tenure as the replacement for John Bracewell but has made a mark already on the New Zealand team's entourage, training methods and personnel.
Moles, a former Warwickshire opener who previously coached Hong Kong, Kenya and Scotland, has pared down the support staff that grew up around the New Zealand team during Bracewell's regime, which ended on last month's 2-0 series lost to top-ranked Australia.
He professes a down-to-earth approach to training and an emphasis on personal accountability and though he is not a selector he is happy with the changes that have been made to the New Zealand team since the Australian series.
Chris Martin has been removed and replaced by Mark Gillespie as the spearhead of the bowling attack, all-rounded Jacob Oram and James Franklin return and add batting strength and uncapped left-hander Tim McIntosh becomes the latest player to open the New Zealand innings.
"It has been well publicized that I'm not on the selection panel. But I can say we had a really good selection meeting and I'm really happy with the outcome," Moles said. "I think we've got a really good, balanced side and I'm looking forward to getting into battle against the West Indies."
The West Indies, seventh among the nine active Test nations, will look to captain Chris Gayle and veterans Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Ramnaresh Sarwan for leadership in a series for which they have had minimal preparation.
Sarwan's unbeaten century in the team's sole warmup match against Auckland, restricted to two incomplete innings, marked his importance to a batting lineup among which only he, Gayle and Chanderpaul have played previously in New Zealand.
Rain in Dunedin has curbed the West Indies' local preparation for the Test at the University Oval, a quaint ground shaded by trees and surrounded by grassy banks set in parkland near the campus of Otago University.
For both teams, the series represents a chance to revitalize.
New Zealand hopes change will lead to better things in the first of only four Tests they will play at home this summer.
Moles is well aware New Zealand's top order batting, exposed in Australia, is it's greatest weakness.
"It has been well documented that we need to get off to good starts and the same message will be there. Hopefully, we draw a line under what has gone on before," he said. "It's a fresh approach and we're looking forward."
The West Indies also have a new look and are in development under the relatively new captaincy of Gayle. Gayle's leadership as much as his form with the bat in his 74th Test will be crucial to the outcome of the Dunedin match.
"I am just taking it step by step, but at the same time I plan to be myself out there," Gayle said.
"I am maturing and there is more responsibility but the mindset will be to play positive cricket."
The West Indies attack will be spearheaded by Fidel Edwards, who needs five wickets in his 35th Test to reach 100 Test wickets. Edwards said he had seen some of New Zealand's series against Australia and noted the Australian bowlers unsettled the Kiwi top order with swing.
He sees depth in the rearranged order and a potent threat from New Zealand wicketkeeper Brendon McCullum who will now bat at No.7.
"McCullum is the mainstay of the New Zealand team, he's going to be a threat looking at the way he played in Australia. He can upset any bowler's rhythm," Edwards said.
McCullum believes the Australia series, while disappointing, has hardened New Zealand for a Test against a West Indies team which played its last Test, against Australia, almost six months ago.
"That's the beauty of playing against Australia," McCullum said.
"You are battle-hardened regardless of whether you go down in the manner we did. We've still come up against the best in the business, so there will be some sort of edge."