Windies do not need miracles in New Zealand

Orin Davidson's Eye on Sport
Stabroek News
November 28, 1999

Miracle seems the most sought after blessing in the cricket world presently.

England needs one to avoid defeat against South Africa in the current series as is Pakistan to avoid a 3-0 sweep in Australia, while recently appointed West Indies coach Viv Richards is of the impression the region's cricket supporters expect miracles from the team's upcoming tour of New Zealand.

In a recent interview Richards reportedly said he needs time, much more time than will be had from the two-test, five-one day international series in New Zealand, to produce major improvements from the team.

Were it factual it would be an unreasonable public that would expect exceptional performances, especially from the batsmen many of whom are in the squad mainly for the exposure, in the building process embarked on to regain the team's success of past years.

Ricardo Powell, Wavell Hinds, Adrian Griffith and Darren Ganga have been selected with the hope that they can blossom into more capable batsmen than their most recent predecessors.

Nevertheless, it will be a difficult series for the Caribbean side but not impossible to win.

In years past, the results of any West Indies/New Zealand series could have been considered a foregone conclusion, not withstanding the extremely contentious 1-0 defeat the Caribbean side suffered in 1980 in New Zealand.

Not so today. New Zealand are a much improved side while West Indies' standard has declined. The gap has not so much been narrowed, it has closed entirely.

In their last Test series matchup, West Indies won a two-match series 1-0 at home and were never placed under any type of great pressure.

Although the Caribbean side defeated New Zealand handily in their single encounter in the World Cup, New Zealand went on to qualify for the second round ahead of West Indies.

They were consistently better than West Indies, a requirement West Indies should acquire and maintain for the coming series, even though the West Indies Cricket Board did afford the coach and team members the necessary time to gel, by their belated selection processes.

The key players though, would have learnt from the World Cup experience and be better resolved to come out victorious.

Richards has warned against expecting miracles which ought not be required to defeat New Zealand. Our batsmen will have to play within their means and allow the bowlers to do the rest.

A test series victory will be good, but the yardstick which should measure the team's success must be improvement among the batsmen especially the young ones being groomed for the future.

One cannot expect another Brian Lara to emerge on the spot, rather the batsmen must be motivated to bat consistently well as a team to post scores good enough for the bowlers to work with.

Powell, an exemplary striker of the ball, has done well so far in one-day internationals against lesser of the World's top of the line fast bowlers. In the longer version of the game his inability to stroke the ball consistently on the ground could work against him. It is one area Richards will have to work hard on. Hinds seems a better Test prospect with good shot selection knowledge and only seems to require that extra bit of motivation to pull his weight.

Ganga has excellent technique but needs to get tougher mentally while Griffith has intense concentration but would need to broaden his range of strokes.

Without Curtly Ambrose the bowling attack will have lost some bite on paper, but it is an ideal opportunity for the others to fill the void and give Courtney Walsh the support he needs. That however, would not be possible overnight. In a recent article Andy Roberts gave an indepth assessment of the weaknesses of a number our top young fast bowlers. With his vast experience and knowledge Roberts would be good to add to the team's coaching staff as bowling coach.

For too long West Indies' technical team has been undermanned. We have had Malcolm Marshall a bowler without a specialist to work with the batsmen. Now it is Richards without a specialist for the bowlers. It is a consideration the WICB should take seriously and implement immediately. Our success is often dependent on the rewards we reap from what has been sown.

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