Black Caps coach won't risk jet-lagged McCullum
HAMISH BIDWELL AND FRED WOODCOCK
Brendon McCullum sounds like an unlikely inclusion for Thursday morning's third one-day international against the West Indies at St Kitts.
McCullum is among the five Black Caps' players test players due arrive in St Kitts about 20 hours before the scheduled start of the match at Warner Stadium, which New Zealand coach John Wright described as potentially too ''tight.''
The Black Caps have been short of runs during their brace of Twenty20 and ODI losses to the Windies, but maybe not short enough to risk a jet-lagged McCullum for the match which starts at 1.30 am (NZT) on Thursday.
The rest of the test players Daniel Vettori, Chris Martin, Kruger van Wyk and Neil Wagner will just be in St Kitts to acclimatise, ahead of de-camping to Antigua to prepare for a three-day warm-up match and then the first test. McCullum will remain with the one-day team and definitely play in the last two games, on July 15 and 17, Wright said.
Thursday sounds a long shot, though.
''We'll see how he feels. It's a long journey, but that may be a little bit tight,'' said Wright.
McCullum and team physio Paul Close would be consulted for their views but, ultimately, Wright said he would decide whether the batsman was rushed into the top-three or not.
Aside from McCullum and company, the team are also about to be bolstered by the return from injury of three players. Captain Ross Taylor has been taking throw downs and is a possibility to play in the July 17 one-dayer, while Doug Bracewell trained fully today and medium pacer Andrew Ellis is expected to be back bowling in a day or two.
Whoever plays on Thursday, Wright said the team had to lift their performances by ''10 percent'' across the board. The wicket at Warner Park is flat and the straight boundaries shorter than the ones in Jamaica that Windies opening batsman Chris Gayle cleared so comfortably in Sunday's 55-run loss.
Wright indicated Trent Boult might come into Thursday's playing XI, believing that the left-armer was the best candidate to dismiss Gayle, who's smashed 63 not out and 125 the previous two one-dayers.
Nathan McCullum reckons New Zealand have conjured up some plans to claim the prized scalp of Gayle, plans which they're ''pretty sure'' are going to work.
"At the end of the day we've just got to get him out, and we've got some plans in place that we're pretty sure are going to work," allrounder McCullum told local reporters today.
"Let's hope they do, but we're determined to take his wicket and get them under pressure at the top."
If New Zealand can find a way to dismiss Gayle early, they hope that will put pressure on the rest of the batting order, pressure that hasn't been applied at any stage during the first four matches.
"We've just got to win," McCullum said. "We've got to be determined to win and find any way possible.
''We've got to take more wickets, burn through their top order and see what their bottom order has got under pressure, and if we bat first we've got to score hundreds and put big partnerships and big runs on the board.
''It's about the boys getting some time in the middle. We've got a young top order at the moment ... which means the younger guys have got to find their feet quicker.''
''We've got a young top order at the moment and it's hard for them to find their feet when there's no real experience around them,'' McCullum said.
BLACK CAPS UNDERDONE
It's hardly the most startling admission of the year, but New Zealand Cricket's director of cricket, John Buchanan, has conceded the Blacks Caps were underdone heading into this tour.
The squad essentially assembled at the airport en route to the Caribbean, whereas the Windies were coming off back-to-back series' against Australia and England.
It has been reported that Wright requested an offshore team camp including warmup matches, but that was turned down for financial reasons.
''When you play short form cricket, particularly T20 cricket, it does mean that your game's got to be spot on,'' Buchanan told Radio Sport today.
''It does mean you've got to be precise with your game, and that only comes from playing. We obviously were in our winter phase so didn't have the luxury of that.
''They were certainly match hardened coming into the tournament then of course I had a couple of additional players come into their side, which made a significant impact on the series so far.''
But Buchanan said the national side could not play all the time.
''You always identify where you can be vulnerable and periods like these will be just one of those. You actually do need to create some gap time in your programme, because players have got to get time away from the game, either to physically recover, or mentally.''
Buchanan told Radio Sport that it would probably make a recommendation to the board regarding Wright's replacement by the end of the month.
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