West Indies seek Calypso confidence in NZ

Published: Wednesday, February 15, 2006, 23:53 [IST]
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Auckland:The West Indies launch their cricket tour of New Zealand here looking to regain some of the potency that once made them the most feared Test side in the world.

While they look to rediscover their strengths, the opening game of the tour, a Twenty20 hit out, will also serve as a farewell to one of the strongmen of New Zealand cricket, all rounder Chris Cairns.

For the West Indies to arrive in New Zealand as underdogs was once unheard of, but they have been unable to climb out of the hole they dug for themselves on their last tour down under in 1999.

They started that tour with a 276-run partnership between Adrian Griffith and Sherwin Campbell for the first wicket of the first Test, and went to to be whitewashed 2-0 and 5-0 respectively in the Test and one-day series.

This time their batting line up includes Test cricket's leading run-scorer Brian Lara, who is only available for the Test matches, as well as Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Ramnaresh Sarwan and Chris Gayle the West Indies who all have the talent to score runs.

But their bowling attack -- one the fastest in the game -- lacks potency and has been further weakened by the withdrawal of Corey Collymore.

After losing 15 of their past 17 one-day internationals, and 12 of the past 15 Tests, the West Indies languish in eighth place in the world Test and one-day rankings, ahead of only Zimbabwe and Bangladesh.

Yet, despite the lowly figures, coach Bennett King believes it would be unwise to write the Calypso kings off too early.

"When it's a two-horse race you're always (in with) a chance," he said.

"A lot of our players can perform well, and they have at various times on the world stage.

"We've got a lot of hope and a lot of expectation because we've got some young people that need to start showing the world what they can do."

Two of the standout young players are wicketkeeper-batsman Denesh Ramdin and 22-year-old allrounder Dwayne Bravo who averaged 53.5 with the bat and took eight wickets at 25 in two Tests against Australia last year.

"Bravo and Ramdin both played very well in the last two matches against Australia," skipper Chanderpaul said.

"Dwayne is a great talent and is a great guy who can lift the rest of the team."

New Zealand will be without long-serving Chris Cairns when the series proper begins, and captain Stephen Fleming believes it could take three players to cover the roles performed by Cairns in New Zealand's one-day side.

"We've lost a player who could win matches and whenever we went on to the field with him, we knew we were in with a chance of winning the game," Fleming said of the champion allrounder who compiled the impressive statistics of 4,950 runs in one-day internationals at 29.46 and took 201 wickets at 32.80.

As a Test cricketer, he scored 3,320 runs at 33.53, took 218 wickets at 29.40 and smashed a world record 87 Test-match sixes.

"What we have to try to do is find a way to replicate that. Whether that's through one player, two players or even three players, we have to try to find a formula for making up for a loss of a player who is a once in a lifetime player," Fleming said.

Unfortunately the three players Fleming had in mind -- Jacob Oram, Kyle Mills and Andre Adams -- are all injured and won't be taking any part in the opening two matches.

But New Zealand have the satisfaction of knowing top fast bowler Shane Bond showed he had fully overcome his back problems in the recent 4-1 one-day series win over Sri Lanka and wicketkeeper Brendon McCullum is developing a growing reputation as an all-rounder.

The first of five one-day internationals between New Zealand and the West Indies begins in Wellington next Saturday, and the three-Test series starts in Auckland on March 9.

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