Lara, the leading run-scorer in Test history, missed the recent ODI series, which the men from the Caribbean lost 4-1 and his ability to score heavily and quickly could add an extra dimension to the West Indies' chances of being competitive.
His value to the team is backed up by the LG ICC Player Rankings for batsmen. Lara is third in the list, with only Australia captain Ricky Ponting and Jacques Kallis of South Africa ahead of him.
The only other player from either the West Indies or New Zealand in the top 20 is the visitor's captain, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, another indication of how crucial Lara's contribution could be to the series.
Below that duo is the top-ranked New Zealand batsman, captain Stephen Fleming, in 22nd place, with team mate Nathan Astle three spots further back. After them come the West Indies duo of Chris Gayle and Ramnaresh Sarwan, in 28th and 29th places respectively.
Interestingly, New Zealand's third-highest ranked batsman in the LG ICC Player Rankings is Lou Vincent, in 35th place and with a career-best haul of rating points.
But winning a Test match is not just about scoring runs; it is also, usually, about taking 20 wickets and on that basis New Zealand certainly appear to have the advantage.
They have four bowlers in the top 30 of the LG ICC Player Rankings with Shane Bond, fit and firing again, in 12th position, as well as Daniel Vettori (22nd), Chris Martin (24th) and James Franklin (29th), according to an ICC release here today.
The West Indies, by contrast, are not in such a positive position.
Their three highest-ranked players are Corey Collymore (joint 18th), Pedro Collins (27th) and Jermaine Lawson (33rd) and none of them are on the tour.
Their highest-placed players in New Zealand are Dwayne Bravo (40th) and Fidel Edwards (41st), while Gayle is 46th in the bowling list.