New Zealand walked all over West Indies in the three match ODI series, whitewashing the visitors 3-0 with considerable ease. The visitors have long been a shadow of their once legendary selves, going from bad to worse with every series they play.
However, West Indies have brought back some of their senior players for the 3 T20s. The names include Carlos Brathwaite, Jerome Taylor, and others. The Kiwis have also revamped their squad, with Martin Guptill being the most noticeable inclusion. The West Indian squad enhancement should make the competition much closer than what it was in the ODIs, but will it be enough to earn a victory?
Carlos Brathwaite (c), Samuel Badree, Ronsford Beaton, Rayad Emrit, Andre Fletcher, Chris Gayle, Jason Mohammed, Kieron Pollard, Rovman Powell, Jerome Taylor, Chadwick Walton, Kesrick Williams, Shai Hope, Ashley Nurse.
Tim Southee (c), Doug Bracewell, Tom Bruce, Lockie Ferguson, Martin Guptill, Matt Henry, Anaru Kitchen, Glenn Phillips, Seth Rance, Mitchell Santner, Ish Sodhi, Ross Taylor.
Where the teams stand
Carlos Brathwaite returns as captain for the T20s, replacing Holder, who isn’t even part of the squad now. Kieron Pollard was supposed to play these three T20s, but he has been withdrawn due to personal reasons very like Sunil Narine for the ODIs. While this might be just a coincidence, one cannot help but think that there may be some trouble behind the scenes with the infamous West Indian Cricket Board and the players given the long history of animosity between the two sides. Gayle returned to cricket for the third ODI after sitting out the second one. He should be back to opening for the T20s along with Andre Fletcher, a once-regular feature of the team who fell out of favor. Hetmyer, Brathwaite, Powell, and Shai Hope will most likely form the middle order for the Windies. Rayad Emrit might feature in the squad as well. His all-round abilities have come in handy for Trinidad & Tobago, and they will be needed against the Kiwis as well. At 36, he is definitely not the youngest kid on the block, but if he can perform, he will do.
With the ball, Taylor returns to lead the attack. Beaton, Williams, and Brathwaite will compliment him in the pace department. Badree is likely to replace Nurse as the spin-specialist in the squad. The attack has not benefitted much from the squad overhaul for the T20s, a constant Achilles heel for the Windies. Taylor has lost his youthful luster, and Brathwaite can only do so much alone. Badree is a definite improvement over Nurse, but his consistency can be erratic, something his team can ill-afford.
If the Windies win the toss, they must bowl first. Given the composition of their squad, which is heavily batting reliant, they have the ability to chase big scores, but may not have the prowess to set big enough targets for their bowlers to defend. Batting first makes their job that much tougher, because you never know what is enough. Nevertheless, this is the best chance they have of winning all series, and they might just end up successful.
New Zealand have decided to include a number of youngsters in their squad, a good move by the selectors to give the newer crop a chance to go against an international side. Southee is captain in the absence of Kane Williamson, who returns for the next T20. He will spearhead the attack along with Doug Bracewell, Lockie Ferguson, and a host of other options. The squad selection here can be very flexible due to the resources the Kiwis possess, having included several bowlers and all rounders in the squad. This includes as many as three proper spinning options. The selectors have gone slightly overboard with the number of bowlers selected, and it might cost them dearly due to the inevitable consequence of taking too many bowlers: too few batsmen. In theory, it is a smart move to amalgamate your bowling attack with veterans and novices, but this is pushing it too far. Bowling alone will not win you the match, you need some batting capital as well.
Regardless, Guptill returns to the fold for this series after some time out. He, along with Taylor, is the only experienced batsman in the entire squad. Glenn Phillips is assured selection as a wicketkeeper-batsman. The rest are all players who have played fewer than 10, or even 5 international matches. The Kiwis are packing some serious raw talent, but perhaps this is a little too raw when it comes to batting. If they had one more experienced middle order batsman, whom they have decided not to select for any of the three T20s, it would award them some much needed stability. This setup puts far too much pressure on the two veterans, and if they fall early, New Zealand are set to be in big trouble.
West Indies win. The Kiwi batting lineup is far too weak and dependant on Guptil and Taylor, despite the latter being in superb form. In contrast, the Windies have a much better balance to their squad.
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