Another 'must win' faces West Indies cricket
IN 2012 when New Zealand's Test cricket squad was last in Jamaica as part of a Caribbean tour, victory for the West Indies team was seen as a must.
Back then, Mr Darren Sammy's West Indies team delivered — sweeping the visitors in the two-Test series. For Jamaicans two years ago, the Test match triumph at Sabina Park was especially sweet since it came as the nation celebrated 50 years of political Independence, and complemented outstanding feats by the nation's track athletes at the London Olympics.
That year would end on a high for West Indies cricket, following their triumph in the ICC World twenty20. But in terms of performances on the field since then, it has been mostly downhill — a trend highlighted by disastrous tours of India and New Zealand late last year and entering 2014.
Back in 2012, West Indies were ahead of New Zealand in the ICC Test match rankings. Today, the West Indies are ranked eighth, 16 rating points behind the sixth-ranked New Zealand.
So, yet again, anxious West Indies cricket fans will be demanding nothing less than success from their team against visiting New Zealand. This time there will be three Tests, with the first beginning tomorrow at Sabina.
Local fans are particularly anxious since the Test match will mark the 100th for opener and former West Indies captain Mr Chris Gayle. Now 34 years old and struggling with injury and unfitness, it is very possible that this could be the last Test for Mr Gayle on home turf.
In terms of the make-up of the West Indies team there are fundamental differences from two years ago.
First and foremost, the West Indies now have a new captain in wicketkeeper/batsman Mr Denesh Ramdin who replaced Mr Darren Sammy, triggering the latter's retirement from Test cricket.
There are other personnel changes, most notably the return — after a four-year absence from the West Indies set-up because of injury and unfitness — of fast bowler Mr Jerome Taylor. Also returning after a prolonged absence is Mr Sulieman Benn, the tall left-arm spinner.
Another encouraging variance from two years ago is that all of a sudden there are young batsmen on the fringes of the West Indies team demanding the attention of the regional selectors.
It's a development that must surely concentrate the minds of the incumbents as they take on the always tough and competitive New Zealanders.
As is usual, this newspaper joins with the people of the Caribbean in wishing for our cricketers all that is good in the coming weeks.