Sounds weird, but West Indies are at last dominating a series, albeit against a weaker, under-par New Zealand side. The Caribbeans shouldn’t be complaining though, for this will give them the confidence to do well in tougher challenges. The West Indians have been performing reasonably well in the shorter formats lately, drawing the ODIs and T20s against Australia at home. However, they haven’t really dominated a series, and this is where the ongoing series against New Zealand could prove significant, particularly with the T20 World Cup coming up. In every game since the start of the tour, West Indies have had the upper hand, and maintained their ascendancy right through.
The return of their best player, Chris Gayle, has definitely made a huge difference to the side. There were worries that the left-hander’s domestic T20 form may not automatically translate into runs at the international level. On the contrary, the big hitter has brought all his experience into play and has been in excellent form. His performances didn’t lead to wins for the side in England, for the opponents were far superior there. However, against the Kiwis, his dominance has had a lethal effect. West Indies were clearly missing Gayle when he was away from the side, and his return has only augmented the team’s chances of doing well in all the formats.
Apart from Gayle, West Indies have also benefited handsomely by the form of some of their other experienced players. Marlon Samuels has been a different, more mature player ever since making his latest comeback into the team. In this ongoing series as well, he has continued his rich vein of form. In the company of Gayle, Samuels compiled an impressive ton in the second ODI at Jamaica, which helped the hosts ease to yet another win. Another player who has been central to West Indies’ performance in recent times has been all-rounder Dwayne Bravo. He has played the role of late-hitter to perfection, coming up with the big hits at opportune moments. Additionally, he has the ability of picking up wickets at crucial times in a match. This quality of his gives the Windies a distinct advantage especially against an average side like New Zealand.
Like their batting, West Indies’ bowling too has proved to be too good for the New Zealand batsmen. Ravi Rampaul has been Windies’ most effective bowler in the last 12 months when he has been fit, and continues to improve with every passing game. At Jamaica, he had it easy with the opponents chasing 316. Still, he did his job of restricting the scoring and picking up key wickets. Sunil Narine may have lost a bit of his mystique factor, but against New Zealand he is still proving to be more than a handful. And with Andre Russell also among the wickets, Windies bowling has been strengthened.
One wonders how New Zealand can pull off a victory under such circumstances.
--By A Cricket Analyst