Two-match shoot-out: New Zealand vs West Indies
The West Indies, or the Windies, begin their Test tour of New Zealand tomorrow with one thing on their minds: to beat the Kiwis on the way to re-establishing their cricketing pedigree.
For the West Indies, however, who were once looking down as kings but are now looking up as subjects, it is like being once a man twice a child as they try to become a man once again.
The contest, however, promises more than that. It promises also to be a two-match shoot-out for bragging rights between the two teams.
After 16 series between 1952 and 2014, the West Indies have won six, New Zealand seven, and three have been drawn.
Importantly, however, of the first nine series, the West Indies won five and New Zealand won one while of the second seven series, West Indies won one and New Zealand won six, and of the 10 series played in New Zealand, the West Indies won three, including the first two, and New Zealand won four, including three of the last four with one drawn.
Even more important is the fact that of the 45 individual Test matches played between the teams, the count stands at 13 victories each, and for the matches played in New Zealand, the tally is 27 Test matches with the West Indies winning seven and New Zealand 10, the last three all by 2-0 margins.
Individual scores like Seymour Nurse's 258 at Christchurch in 1969 and Glen Turner's 259 at Bourda in 1972, and bowling feats such as Courtney Walsh's seven for 37 at Wellington in 2000 and Chris Cairns at Hamilton in 1995 suggest how close the contests of the past have been.
Their best, 660 for five declared by the West Indies at Wellington in 1995 and 609 for nine declared at Dunedin in 2014, and their worst, 72 by the West Indies in Auckland in 1956 and 74 by New Zealand at Dunedin in 1956, suggests that there is little to choose between both teams, except for the dazzling heights achieved by the West Indies in the general scheme of things.
New Zealand never ever reached those heights. The West Indies have been there but they are no longer there, and for a long time they have been trying to get back there.
The question is, can the Windies show that they have the goods to make it back, and can they best New Zealand, in New Zealand, to signal their intention?
New Zealand are not in the celebrated company of India, Australia, South Africa, or England. They are, however, quite solid, and especially so in their own backyard.
New Zealand boast a good fielding team, as usual, and in captain Kane Williamson, Ross Taylor, Martin Guptill, and Tom Latham they possess four good batsmen, in Colin de Grandhomme they have one good all-rounder, and apart from left-arm spinner Mitchell Santer, in Tim Southee, Trent Boult, and Neil Wagner, they are blessed with three quality pacers, two of whom are left-handers.
By now, however, the once mighty West Indies must be, or should be, hungry, captain Jason Holder must be thirsty, and after the taste of a brilliant performance in one Test against England recently, they are quietly confident that they can change the recent results against New Zealand and in New Zealand.
The time has come to stop talking and to produce, to show character and to produce when it matters, as they did at Headingley in the summer.
It will be a tough series, everyone will have to perform if the West Indies are to win, and especially so, batsmen Kraigg Brathwaite, Kieron Powell, Shai Hope, and Roston Chase, all-rounder Holder, pacers Kemar Roach and Alzarri Joseph, and Devendra Bishoo.
Hopefully, Sunil Ambris will be selected, and Jermaine Blackwood, if he is selected, will see the light, bat sensibly, and get some runs.