What to expect?
The BLACKCAPS tour of West Indies is nearly upon us and it’s hard to decide which side deserves the tag of ‘favourites.’
Two Twenty20 games in Florida will kick off the highly anticipated series at the end of the month, with five ODIs and two Test matches to follow.
To pick a winner in any format would be a fool-hardy task, with current form and past battles showing very little between the teams.
On one hand you have a talented BLACKCAPS squad with a balance of fresh and experienced faces, and although they showed promise in their last series against South Africa, they'd be disappointed with the results. Then there is the West Indies who will be buoyed by home advantage and the return of Chris Gayle, but recently suffered losses to Australia and England.
Motivation shouldn’t be a problem for either side, with the promise of a rise in the ratings in both the Test and ODI rankings. The stakes in the Twenty20 matches is debatably of even higher importance, with both teams looking to get early momentum in the lead up to the World Twenty20 tournament later this year.
Memory of South Africa
Some would argue that the West Indies, being the home side, hold the edge over their opponent. It can’t be denied that they are a far stronger force when playing on their own territory, but Australia’s 2-0 victory in May certainly showed they weren’t invincible.
And what of the form of the BLACKCAPS at the moment? After such a promising start to the season against Zimbabwe and Australia, they were then taught a lesson by a Proteas side that claimed victory in all three formats.
On paper, it painted a fairly bleak picture, but when we manage to look past the results, the doom and gloom isn’t as bad as you might think.
Against what many considered to be one of the best bowling attacks to visit our shores, New Zealand showed enormous resilience to fall one nil in the Test series and had looked a chance to win the first match until weather intervened.
The loss of the Twenty20 series will still linger in the Kiwis minds, after coming agonisingly close to a series win, only to lose 2-1.Make no mistake, needing just six off the final over the BLACKCAPS already had one hand on the trophy. They’ll have little desire to falter in those types of circumstances again.
The hangover of the South Africa series lingers for many fans, but much of the negativity is exaggerated. A number of hard lessons were learnt and many fans disappointed, but it should bring some positive outcomes in the future.
There are in fact a number of reasons to be optimistic.
Young bowlers like Trent Boult and Doug Bracewell have now had a little more time on the big stage and will continue to grow.
The competition for the bowling spots has never been better, with newly eligible Kiwi Neil Wagner also providing an option in the Test series. Don’t forget about the experienced Chris Martin or Mark Gillespie who have proven records against quality opposition.
Having both Ross Taylor and Daniel Flynn fully fit will seriously bolster the batting line up, while BJ Watling will also give selectors another option at wicket keeper.
After a solid start to his international career against Zimbabwe keep an eye on Tom Latham as well, who will get his first taste of the Caribbean in the ODI and Twenty20 formats.
Aside from Brendon McCullum and James Franklin who will be rested, it’s a full strength New Zealand squad.
On paper it’s an exciting team, with improved depth. There will be many doubters, but hopefully all that will signal is better TAB odds.
Can the BLACKCAPS fulfil the potential they promise?
We wait with baited breath.