WI v NZ: A chance for West Indies to hunt redemption
Akeem Greene provides some historical insights into West Indies and New Zealand T20 clashes. For all it’s worth, this series provides a chance for West Indies to hunt redemption in one of the toughest places to tour.
On February 16, 2006, West Indies played their first-ever T20 International, and it was against New Zealand in Auckland. They lost the match on the bowl-out after the game was tied at the end of 20 overs.
Chris Gayle and Dwayne Bravo are the only two active international players from that playing XI. Fourteen years later, a different group return to play at Auckland with one goal- to win a T20 International series in New Zealand.
After the match in 2006, West Indies returned for three more tours, losing two and drawing the other.
Their lone win out of eight T20I matches in New Zealand came in December 2008. Chris Gayle was Man-of-the-Match as New Zealand’s 155-7 proved inadequate as West Indies won by two wickets.
Current West Indies limited-overs captain Kieron Pollard made seven and took one wicket in that match.
Twelve years later, he now returns with a chance to change history. A chance to continue on a winning path on the road to World T20 title defence next year in India.
In March this year, West Indies toured Sri Lanka and won both T20s.
But despite two World T20 titles, they languish ninth on the rankings, and it stems from them not being able to field their best XI during most bilateral series.
Gayle, Andre Russell, Lendl Simmons, Evin Lewis and Sunil Narine are absent for varying reasons, but the reserves are quite talented in their own right.
Looking at both squads, on paper, the Caribbean side certainly possess the quality needed to win this three-match series.
I anticipate the playing XI for the first match will be: Brandon King, Andre Fletcher, Shimron Hetmyer, Nicholas Pooran, Kieron Pollard, Rovman Powell, Fabian Allen, Keemo Paul, Romario Shepherd, Hayden Walsh Jr. and Sheldon Cottrell.
Without a doubt, southpaws Hetmyer and Pooran will be asked to lay a solid foundation for the big bashers in Pollard and Allen, who would relish the short straight boundaries.
However, most of the grounds in New Zealand are quite open and the wind factor is always a case square of the wicket.
Paul is expected to be Pollard’s go-to man at the ‘death’ and it will be interesting to see how well he can use his bag of tricks and slower-balls on surfaces which are usually great for batting.
Leg-spinner Walsh, who didn’t have the best of CPL outings this year, will want to show good consistency since if Narine is available, he would be hard-pressed to keep his place.
New Zealand have opted to rest their seasoned pros such as Trent Boult and Kane Williamson. Tim Southee, who will captain, will only lead for the first two matches after which Mitchell Santner takes over.
They have gone a different route in looking to expose players. Out of that, the unknown potentially poses a new challenge for the West Indies. Though many lacked the experience and exposure as most West Indians, they are playing in home conditions.
Ross Taylor seems an ageless character, and while he did not have the best of outings in this year’s CPL, the fresher New Zealand pitches could help him.
There is also solid support from the likes of Martin Guptill, Ish Sodhi, Jimmy Neesham and Glenn Phillips.
Just like the West Indies, some of New Zealand’s T20 pros only cleared quarantine on the eve of this contest.
It’s hard to decipher what will be their XI, since they are on rotation policy of player management.
History makes New Zealand favourites, but experience and power make the West Indies genuine contenders.
Who will come out on top? We will have until 02:00h Eastern Caribbean time on Friday, November 27.