Talent galore, but the Kiwis need right application
A dismal show in the recently concluded ODI series saw New Zealand go down to the West Indies by 14 points on the Castrol Index. Some listless performances coupled with lack of application were the main reasons behind the defeat. The tour now moves on to the final level where the two teams lock horns in a two-match Test series.
Following a disappointing run, the Kiwis would consider this as a fresh start. They have had a rollercoaster ride in the Test arena in the last couple of years having won just two out of seven series. Both their series wins were against a weaker opposition, Zimbabwe. They have been providing some brave performances of late but to no avail. The Black Caps managed to fight back hard and level the two match series 1-1 against the mighty Australians away and followed it up with a stoic display against the Proteas at home.
As the Test series against the men from the Caribbean commences, New Zealand have received a huge shot in the arm as their marquee players have recovered from injuries in time and a full strength squad is at their disposal. The mixture of experience and youth makes it a pretty balanced squad. Ross Taylor has the big task of leading the side. He, along with Brendon McCullum and Kane Williamson, will form the backbone of the batting line-up. Taylor has been struggling with injuries lately but has ensured that it hasn’t been a hindrance to his on-field performances. His scintillating century in the 4th ODI against West Indies at St Kitts almost singlehandedly won the match for the Kiwis. Chasing a tricky target of 265, he strode to the crease at 50/2 and with great determination, placed his innings to perfection. He started off cautiously but with wickets falling at regular intervals at the other end, he took the aggressive approach and blasted the bowlers out of the park to achieve the best Batting Momentum of 149 in the match. It was his mature batting display that helped him attain a confident Castrol Index of 59.
Earlier this year, he hit a splendid century against Zimbabwe in a one-off Test at Napier which powered his team to a 322-point victory on the Castrol Index. An aggressive approach helped him earn the best Batting Momentum of 120 in the match. With 521 runs from 7 matches, Taylor has been the highest run getter for the Kiwis in the last 12 months. His ability to control the innings and up the ante at any given time make him the most important player for New Zealand. Brendon McCullum is another senior pro who has the ability to take any attack apart on any given day. Martin Guptill has lost the plot a bit now, but possesses a good technique and temperament to succeed in the longest format of the game. His exceptional fielding abilities make him a must-have player in the team.
One youngster who has impressed the entire cricketing fraternity is Kane Williamson. Calm, elegant and majestic are some of the adjectives you can associate with this 21-year-old. On 27th March 2012, he added one more quality to the armoury. On a crumbling Wellington wicket, on Day 5 of the 3rd Test against the Proteas, he played one of the most intrepid innings ever played in cricket’s history. Chasing 389, the Kiwis were reeling at 32/3. The South African pace battery was wrecking havoc with lethal yorkers and brutal bouncers. Williamson weathered the storm stoically and saved the match with a gritty 102 achieving a fantastic Batting Momentum of 148 and a Castrol Index of 110, the highest for the Kiwis. He has been the second highest run-getter for New Zealand in the last twelve months. His presence, along with Taylor’s, makes it a strong middle order for the visitors.
Upcoming youngsters like Dean Brownlie, who impressed against Australia, wicketkeeper-batsman Bradley Watling and Daniel Flynn possess a wide array of flamboyant strokes but need to improve their temperament. Their all-round department looks ominous with the presence of Daniel Vettori and Doug Bracewell. Vettori has the ability to contain the batsmen and build pressure coupled with significant contributions in the lower order. Since his debut in October 2011, Bracewell has churned out some match-winning performances. He has been pretty consistent with the ball, being the highest wicket-taker for the Kiwis since last year with 30 wickets from 7 matches. His partnership with Chris Martin will form the core of the bowling line-up. Pacemen Tim Southee, Neil Wagner and Trent Boult can destroy the opposition with devastating swing bowling. With the pitches in the Caribbean assisting spin bowlers, uncapped Tarun Nethula will be a handy pick. His enticing leg breaks, coupled with surprising googlies, make him a dangerous prospect for the opposition especially on crumbling tracks of the fourth and fifth days,
Their batsmen will face a tough time against the spin of Sunil Narine and their bowlers against Chris Gayle. There is talent galore in the Kiwi side but patience and the right application are the need of the hour. If the application is right, the players can perform to their potential and help the Kiwis overturn their poor record in the Caribbean Islands.