A downcast Ross Taylor yesterday handed the New Zealand one-day captaincy baton to Kane Williamson for the foreseeable future as injuries and rustiness haunt the tourists against the West Indies.
After two poor showings in the Twenty20 matches in Florida, losing by 56 runs and 61 runs, New Zealand are destined for some solid hours in the Kingston nets ahead of Friday's ODI series opener.
They'll be without the luckless Taylor for the five ODIs, and possibly the two tests starting in Antigua on July 26, after medical staff put a two to six-week recovery time on his left shoulder injury. He suffered a grade two displacement of the AC joint while diving to attempt a catch on Sunday.
"We'll have a better assessment over the next week or so and I'll have a better idea of where I'm at. If I'm looking positive I'll stay on, if not I'll come home," Taylor said.
That leaves Williamson, at 21 New Zealand's youngest ODI captain, to skipper the side at Sabina Park and beyond, while Brendon McCullum, rested for the T20s and ODIs, will lead the test team if Taylor is ruled out.
Williamson was always earmarked as New Zealand captaincy material but yesterday's debut in Lauderhill arrived sooner than expected.
"He was obviously very nervous and he only had a day to prepare. His bowling changes were very good and he went with his gut which is quite often what you have to do," Taylor said. "He's going to do the job for a few more games yet and he showed promising signs and the team got in behind him."
For now, New Zealand need Williamson to lead from the front with the bat as their perennial weakness against spin was exposed by Sunil Narine.
The West Indies off-spinner, similar in action and unpredictability to Sri Lankan Ajantha Mendis, took 4-12 as New Zealand were skittled for 116 yesterday. Narine, the bowling standout of the Indian Premier League, took 7-46 over the two T20 games.
Williamson said: "We saw a lot of him in the IPL and he performed very well and guys found him hard to pick. That's the key, picking his variation, then going into the nets and putting into practice how we want to go about playing him."
Williamson suggested a more defensive approach in the ODIs. On evidence of Australia's recent tour of the West Indies, turning pitches will be common.
Leg-spinner Tarun Nethula arrived this week as scheduled to join the ODI and test squads, while test squad left-armer Trent Boult was also summoned as ODI cover with Jacob Oram (knee) sidelined.
The bowlers will also receive extra lessons from bowling coach Damien Wright in "hitting the hole" after they were flayed by Chris Gayle in Lauderhill. The world's most feared batsman cracked nine sixes in two games for a combined 138 off 91 balls.
Head coach John Wright said lack of match practice was clearly New Zealand's issue. He was confident they could still be a force at the World T20 in September, with McCullum and Daniel Vettori back.
"You'll see a different side by the time Sri Lanka comes around. The boys have got a lot of cricket in front of them and come off a pretty barren spell. Before this series we've played 10 T20s and won seven. We know we can be competitive, we ran South Africa close ... and we've beaten Pakistan."
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