Windies guarding against complacency By Ezra Stuart
Guyana Chronicle
June 19, 2002

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BRIDGETOWN- THE arrival of Carl Hooper’s revitalised West Indies outfit here this week for the first match of the short two-Test series against the improving New Zealand side signals the return to Kensington Oval which has been their happiest hunting ground in the Caribbean.

Buoyant following the thrilling last-ball, four-wicket triumph in St Vincent on Sunday, which made them 3-1 victors of the preceding One-Day International series, Hooper warned that it wouldn’t be an easy task defeating the Black Caps.

New Zealand, once the whipping boys of international cricket, have made such steady improvement over the past five years that they are now listed at the No.3 spot in the ICC Test championship rankings, behind only Australia and South Africa.

But Hooper is happy to be opposing the New Zealanders at a venue where the West Indies have not only traditionally done well but had comprehensively defeated India by ten wickets, early last month.

“The last time we came here in a Test match we did quite well. We want to continue that trend but I don’t think it is going to be easy,” Hooper said.

“I think the New Zealanders are getting better. Certainly, they have been vast improvements from the first One-Day game (in Jamaica) that they played,” Hooper noted.

“They would be acclimatised by now and looking forward to turning the tables on us in the Test series so we’ve got to guard against complacency,” Hooper warned.

West Indies have a couple of injury concerns to leading fast bowler Mervyn Dillon and reliable middle order batsman Shivnarine Chanderpaul.

Dillon, who has had to carry a heavy workload in the West Indies’ last seven Tests in which he captured 33 wickets from 325 overs, missed the final One-Day match to rest a lower back strain.

On the other hand, Chanderpaul was struck a painful blow on the elbow, which preliminary X-rays showed that there was just bruising.

“He (Dillon) had a few days off. He wasn’t in St Vincent and I suppose over the next couple of days, the trainer will have a look at him and see if he is fit enough to play on Friday,” Hooper said.

Both Dillon and Chanderpaul are vital planks in the new-look West Indies side under Hooper’s inspirational leadership.

Dillon was Man-of-the-Match when the Windies won here in early May against the Indians with an eight-wicket game-haul en route to 23 scalps in the series.

As new spearhead of the West Indies’ pace attack, following the retirement of Curtly Ambrose and Courtney Walsh, Dillon is just one wicket shy of the coveted 100-mark after 25 Tests.

Chanderpaul, the Man-of-the-Series in the earlier five-Test contest against India, was also the hero of Sunday’s thrilling win in St Vincent, when he made a dramatic reappearance after retiring hurt to hit pacer Daryl Tuffey for three consecutive boundaries in the final over.

He made three centuries in a total of 562 runs against the Indians and sustained his form with an unbeaten century when moved up to open the innings in the first of the historic back-to-back ODIs at St Lucia’s ultra-modern Beausejour Stadium.

New Zealand are yet to savour victory in the 11 Tests (three defeats and eight draws) they have played in the West Indies, spread over three tours.

But the last time the teams met in the Test arena, the Kiwis won both Tests on home soil, pushing their record at home against the West Indies to six wins against seven defeats in 19 Tests.