Wednesday, August 8, 2012

West Indies tour review 2012 (2)

Part 2: There’s no “I” in team. Or is there?


In Part 1 I took a look back at the early happenings on tour – a second trip to Florida, Kane Williamson stepping into the captaincy role and the start of a spate of injuries that saw 10 players miss at least one match.

In the second of the three part series I consider the individuals who both shone and slumped – they all had an impact, but was it a positive one?


Is the potential tag becoming a noose?
If you’ve read previous pieces I’ve written, you’ll have read that tagline many times – it’s something that seems to afflict many of New Zealand’s naturally talented cricketers. I am an unashamed supporter of Kane Williamson but it’s time he takes his game forward – for mine it needs to become a “sooner rather than later” proposition. At 22, Williamson is still a young man. He’s only played 14 tests in his third international season but when you start your career with a debut hundred against India on the subcontinent and then blunt the South African attack two years later, it’s hard as a fan to accept mediocre returns.
The batting conditions in the Windies are not the most taxing in world cricket, neither are the opposition bowlers. Yes, Roach is a very good quick and Narine is developing into a quality spinner but there support is a step down. My fear is that if Williamson doesn’t start to realise his potential regularly, he will become another of the modern New Zealand crop who show the ability to sit near the top of the international pile but only ever reach half way to the summit – they pitch their tent in the comfort, avoiding the rarefied air at the summit. Williamson is one of the keys in New Zealand progressing beyond the cellar of international cricket – he has the talent to provide the base around which the batting can be built for years to come. But will he?

Henry returns. And dominates!
Earlier in the summer, as Chris Gayle continued his stand-off with the WICB, I questioned the impact his absence was having on Caribbean cricket. After a series filled with highlights, let’s hope the he makes himself more readily available for the West Indies – his influence is beyond debate.


Mat
Inns
NO
Runs
HS
Ave
BF
SR
100
50
9
11
3
588
150
73.5
625
94.08
2
4


Across all three formats, Gayle treated international cricket like a club net, and his teammates drew confidence off the back of it. In 11 innings he went past fifty on six occasions, twice bringing up three figures – more than the New Zealand batsmen managed between them. Until the final test, the Kiwi bowlers looked helpless – they had no answer to his brash bluster and heavy bat.

Cricket lovers around the world, West Indian or not, will hope Gayle mixes more international cricket with his T20 travels – will pride for his Jamaican homeland balance out a thirst for T20 riches?

Fellow Jamaican Marlon Samuels continues to show he is realising his immense potential as his cricketing maturity grows – like Gayle, he has the ability to become a talisman for a new West Indies.


Mat
Inns
NO
Runs
HS
Ave
BF
SR
100
50
9
8
2
408
123
68
568
71.83
2
1


A new Sun is rising
It’s not often the most talked about bowler in a West Indian side is an offspinner – Kemar Roach has again been strong but young Trinidadian Sunil Narine deserves the lion’s share of the plaudits. Tentative against spin on even flat decks, the New Zealanders had little answer for Narine in any format. He captured at least one wicket in all 11 innings, and had many of the Kiwis looking bereft of ideas. Most seemed unable to pick the delivery out of Narine’s hand and playing it off the pitch is a big ask, especially when looking to attack him in limited overs matches.


Mat
Inns
Overs
Mdns
Runs
Wkts
Ave
Econ
SR
9
11
181
34
500
32
15.62
2.76
33.9


With New Zealand heading to India for a short tour followed by the ICC World T20 in Sri Lanka, Narine may have done them a favour. Few of the game’s current spinners will create the constant uncertainty of mind set Narine has invoked in the New Zealand batsmen – that may not help stop the nightmares in the short term.

Four Kiwi ‘keepers
New Zealand took four wicketkeepers on tour, though Brendon McCullum didn’t don the gloves – he wasn’t due to play until the test matches though arrived earlier when it looked like John Wright or Bryan Waddle were going to be forced to take the field, such were the injuries in the wider squad. Tom Latham, BJ Watling and Kruger van Wyk all took their place behind the stumps – three glove men in the space of nine matches across all three formats.

Of the trio, van Wyk is the only first choice ‘keeper for his domestic side – Latham tends to fill a gap as he finds his feet and Watling was only promoted when the New Zealand selectors saw him as a long term option. Latham kept in the T20Is and the final two ODIs but he has a lot of work to do to get up to speed. At just 20 he has a fine future as a top/middle order batsman and should be left to concentrate on his craft without the interference of the wicket keeping duties – he will offer more as a specialist than a jack of all trades. Northern Districts’ BJ Watling took over from Latham for the first three ODIs before injury curtailed his series. He looks capable yet rusty behind the stumps, though his athletic ability often hides his technical deficiencies – more time in the role will allow him to smooth the rough edges and start to excel. Watling’s batting is a class above the other two and he was at the forefront of the New Zealand effort in all three ODI innings. Unfortunately, a hamstring injury handed the gloves back to Latham for the end of the series before van Wyk assumed the ‘keeper’s role in the test series. Van Wyk is the most certain with the gloves and shows tremendous grit and fight with the bat – the diminutive South African has a heart like Phar Lap. 

Watling has the ability to hold down a middle order spot in all formats and at a push is capable of opening at test level, regardless of his return in the final test. At present, New Zealand are best served with McCullum donning the gloves in the limited overs formats, though Watling offers the opportunity to take the gloves and bat at six or seven in the tests – barring injury it’s likely he would have done so in the Caribbean. When McCullum has had enough Watling is capable of stepping up in all formats but until then he’s worth a batting spot at ODI level at least.

The Roadrunner leads from the front
In the two test matches Martin Guptill showed his peers the way forward. He didn’t escape New Zealand’s conversion curse but he got the innings off to a strong start on all four occasions. Guptill passed 50 on three occasions (he struck 42 in his final innings) but like his peers he couldn’t go on – having a night watchman join him as he approached his hundred in Antigua can’t have helped.

An average a shade under 70 showed Guptill’s undoubted worth to the New Zealand side but further success requires an established opening partner – Mike Hesson needs to decide on another opener and give him an extended period to prove his worth. Guptill’s decision to forego the IPL and prepare for international test cricket in the County Championship has shown dividends and should be applauded. As the winter progresses, Black Cap fans want to see him notch three figures regularly – if he can go on, the side’s batting efforts will start to move forward.


Tell me what you think – I’d love your thoughts. Do you agree with my views on the Kiwis' Caribbean crusade or was I watching a different tour to everyone else? Post a comment below or tweet me @aotearoaxi.
Next up:
  • Part 3: Issues, opportunities and an Olympic pause

If you missed Part 1: Early doors on tour; have a read

2 comments:

  1. Very nice summary again. Enjoyed it.

    I'm a fan of Narine too but I struggle to understand why he bowled a huge number of overs from around the wicket. He could have taken more wickets in less time had he stayed over the stumps, especially in the first test.
    It was pleasing to see the way Guptill dealt with that. This series should serve him well for future tests against quality spin.
    I suspect Ashwin would be bowling a lot from around the stumps later this month,so the batsmen should be fairly prepared for that.

    To me, one of the key tasks in front of Hesson would be to massively improve shot selection of all batsmen. As you've said, this crop has got huge potential but has been displaying poor shot selection.

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    Replies
    1. I'm a little worried for Hesson - the players seemed not to listen to Wright; a man who made the most of his talent and excelled as an international cricketer, so are they even going to give Hesson the time of day? I hope I am wrong!

      As for the shot selection, for mine that is mental and comes down to mindset. Ross Taylor is a classic exmaple - he can play a strong back foot cover drive but chooses instead to cut balls close to him. Many of the bastmen seem frightened of spending time at the crease and seem to take a block-bash approach to the playing spinners - those two things are counter-productive.

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