Kingston (Jamaica), June 8 :
A new-look West Indies will seek to atone for a recent nightmarish run when they face New Zealand at Sabina Park here Sunday in the first of the three Test match series.
The match will mark Chris Gayle’s 100th Test, providing the ideal platform and the ultimate motivation for the Caribbean side to produce something special and set the tone for the series.
Heavy losses on tours of India and New Zealand in November and December last year left the Caribbean side in disarray and they now need a strong showing in order to recoup badly damaged pride.
For the first time in nearly four years, the West Indies are under new leadership with wicketkeeper Denesh Ramdin having been appointed captain in place of all-rounder Darren Sammy. And the Trinidadian, who has served as vice-captain on several occasions, says he hopes to mark the occasion with a positive result.
“It is a special moment for myself, Chris and the West Indian people. If we play consistent cricket, it is going to be a good result. The pitch looks like a good batting track. Whichever captain wins the toss, will bat. Putting runs on the board first will be good for our batting unit. We’ll try to bat out the entire day which we haven’t been doing in the past,” Ramdin said Saturday.
“The pitch will crumble by the third and fourth day. Hopefully the spinners will have the opportunity to get wickets. Once they are consistent and find good areas, it will bounce and spin, so hopefully the spinners can exploit that. We have a good seam attack. If we can pick early wickets, we can put them under some pressure.”
The West Indies also welcome back fast bowlers Kemar Roach and Jerome Taylor.
The 29-year-old Taylor makes his return nearly five years after limping out of the first Test against Australia in Brisbane. Since then he has battled fitness issues but returned to competitive cricket this year with 25 first class wickets for Jamaica.
Meanwhile, Roach has not played a Test since March 2013 and rebounded from shoulder surgery last December to be fit for the series.
Left-arm spinner Sulieman Benn, who played the last of his 17 Tests nearly four years ago, is an also an option for Ramdin with off-spinner Sunil Narine ineligible for selection for the series.
“It is important we get a strong start. They outplayed us in their conditions and these are our conditions now. When we look back at the two Tests we had here in 2012, we outplayed them so we need to emulate that,” said Ramdin.
“We need to play basic and smart cricket so our batters can go on and get big scores and our bowlers can bowl in partnership, build pressure and create those chances to get wickets.”
West Indies will be expected to prey on New Zealand’s poor record as travellers. Of their last 15 Tests, they won just one in a drawn two-match series against Sri Lanka two years ago.
However, Ramdin believes the Black Caps remain a dangerous side and stressed the West Indies would take nothing for granted.
“They are a very exciting team. Once Brendon McCullum is batting, something is going to happen. You have Kane Williamson, a guy who has stuck it out ably out there batting for long periods and you have the exciting Ross Taylor,” Ramdin said.
“The bowling line up is great. You have the left-arm seamers and they did wonders down in New Zealand. Hopefully, we can overcome them in our conditions.”
The last time the two sides met at Sabina Park two years ago, West Indies came away with a five-wicket victory.