Daniel Vettori's absence creates opportunity
If you squint really hard you can just make out the tiniest silver lining in New Zealand Cricket's latest setback.
Daniel Vettori was yesterday ruled out of the Black Caps' second test, which begins overnight (NZ time) in Jamaica, with a groin injury he picked up in the first test.
Brendon McCullum called it a "huge loss" and while most would agree and argue New Zealand's chances without Vettori are the same as Mark Todd's without Campino, it could be a chance for Central Districts' Tarun Nethula to shine. If selected, the test would be the Indian-born Nethula's first.
He took just one wicket in the New Zealanders' tour match, but had the safety blanket of knowing he was New Zealand's second spinner.
There will be no blanket tonight. He will be thrown in as the New Zealand side's leading slow bowling exponent, against aggressive batsmen, comfortable facing spin.
To make matters worse, it seems every man that takes guard in a West Indies helmet does so left-handed, already limiting Nethula's threat.
But this kid can bowl. His legspin is more subtle than that of whom all leg-spin bowling is compared, Shane Warne, but with the backing of his skipper and good field settings he should prove a handful in Jamaica. He's more likely to pick up lbw's than rip the ball past the outside edge as Warne did but hopefully he is still used as an attacking weapon and not defensively.
The other plus to not having Vettori is the pressure that his absence puts on the batting unit.
Without the backup plan that Vettori has so often been, there is even more need for the top order to bat time. Big time. Fifties aren't enough, and neither are small hundreds.
The top order need to do better individually and as a collective.
In the last five years, New Zealand batsmen have reached 150 just four times against the top test playing nations and two of those knocks were in the same test.
Against India in Napier in 2009, Jesse Ryder scored 201 and Ross Taylor made 151. Taylor is on the list twice with his 154 in England in 2008 and McCullum's 225 v India in Hyderabad completes what really is a poor tally.
Also, it needs to be remembered the last test Vettori missed was in Hobart when New Zealand beat Australia.
Now that was a very green wicket that suited the seamers and Sabina Park will not be, but the other players did step up in his absence.
Doug Bracewell took nine wickets, Taylor batted nearly four hours for a plucky half century and Trent Boult was introduced to test cricket.
So all is not completely lost with Vettori on a plane and on his way home.