After a disheartening campaign at Wellington, West Indies have their hopes pinned to the final encounter of the series at Seddon Park. It’s a do-or-die game for the visiting side and they are desperately in search of a win to square the two-match series.
The bad news coming for West Indies under such a crunch situation is the absence of their skipper Jason Holder. Holder has faced one-match suspension after his side was not able to keep up with the over-rate at Wellington. Since this was the second occasion within a year, where Holder has been found guilty for a slow over-rate, a match suspension has been imposed on the West Indies all-rounder along with a fine in his as well as teammates match fee.
In the recent times, West Indies have sprung surprises with the bat as well as with the ball. But consistency has been a problem. There have been occasional sparks of brilliance, but nothing for an elongated period of time.
In the Wellington Test, their batting floundered in the first innings and bowling fizzled out after a solid start. But West Indies did show some resistance in the second innings with the bat. Kraigg Brathwaite was outstanding at the top while Shimron Hetmyer showed his class with a brisk 66. West Indies need performances like these to come on a regular basis and click as a unit.
One can expect the visiting side to come out hard at Seddon Park and fight for pride. But missing out on their skipper in such a crunch situation will always be a huge gap to fill. They have a side that can battle it out and need to bring their best game out in the absence of their skipper.
With Holder missing out, the side has to go changes, which might disturb their combination and break the rhythm. Holder not only bowled medium pace but also got crucial runs in the middle-order. One does not need to speak about the kind of stability and depth an all-rounder brings to the table and Holders is one of the best in the business.
Vice-captain Brathwaite will be leading the West Indies side and has a task in hand at Seddon Park. He has to quickly adapt and lead the side from the front. Talking about Holder’s replacement, West Indies will have to opt for a full-time bowler going into the second Test. They wouldn’t prefer to disturb the top six batting with Shane Dowrich being the wicketkeeper at seven.
West Indies mainly have two choices to start with. They can either rope in a seamer in Alzarri Joseph or leg-spinner Devendra Bishoo. The latter missed out on the first game as the surface had enough grass on it for West Indies to opt for another seamer. In Kemar Roach, Miguel Cummins and Shannon Gabriel, West Indies does have a solid pace attack and drafting a spinner will only add variation.
Also, Bishoo being a wrist-spinner can turn out to be effective on New Zealand surfaces. He has a plethora of experience under his belt and has the potential to do well in these conditions. Joseph, on the other hand, didn’t have a fruitful time in whites. But he did fare well in the shorter formats. He seems to be learning with every outing, which is always a good sign.
West Indies also have an all-rounder in Raymon Reifer, who can bowl left-arm medium and s pretty handy with the bat. Being a left-arm bowler, Reifer will add subtle variation to the West Indies pace attack. But it will be interesting to see if Reifer will get a chance to make a debut in such a crunch situation. The race is tough between the three, but West Indies might probably invest in Bishoo’s experience and give him a go.
New Zealand will be only bolstered by the return of their frontline bowler Tim Southee, which will only add fire to their pace attack. This means, West Indies batsmen need to pull their socks up and come out hard on a surface, that is expected to have some pace and bounce right from the outset.
Will West Indies defy the odds and finish the Test series on a high? That too, in the absence of their skipper? It remains an open debate, but one shouldn’t be surprised if they do create an upset, as they have a knack for doing so. After all, pressure often gets the best out of individuals and teams.