Let's hope Black Caps don't waste their chance

DION NASH
Last updated 05:00 30/11/2013

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This West Indies tour represents a chance for the Black Caps to wipe the slate clean and set a new tone for New Zealand cricket to carry forward.

In recent times cricket, our summer game, has gone through a phase of internal turbulence; bouts of infighting, back stabbing, false accusations, past-player animosities, board resignations, axed captains, new coaches, banglawashes - it all reads like an Italian soap opera.

This series is the chance to move on and set about rebuilding our status on the international stage and our reputation with fans in our own back yard.

That road back to redemption starts on Tuesday, in Dunedin, and as an old cricket coach used to ask us, to ask ourselves; "If not me, who? If not now, when?"

So who will lead the charge?

I have no doubt we have the player base and resources to develop a combative team who play an attractive style, one capable of upsetting even the best teams in the world.

But to achieve that we need our best players to perform more often and underneath them we need to build intelligent, resilient support players.

Simply, we must win more and be more consistent, and that needs to start in the first test in Dunedin and continue through the tour.

Looking at our ranks, I make the following observations.

Bowling: We have the makings of a fine troupe of passionate and exciting fast bowlers, led by Tim Southee and Trent Boult. Neil Wagner, Doug Bracewell and Adam Milne are all capable of the step up to complete the engine room. Nathan McCullum, Ish Sodhi and Roneel Hira are skilful, wily spin options who have the assets to play big roles, but all need to stake a claim and evolve into international threats. Collectively our bowling attack needs to display versatility, street smarts and killer instinct if it is to regularly take 20 wickets.

Batting: The opening spots are not set in concrete. Hamish Rutherford and Peter Fulton have got the nod for Dunedin but Martin Guptill, Jeet Raval and others will be pushing hard for a spot. We need a resolute, determined opening pair. We need craftsmen capable of withstanding pressure and batting for a day and beyond.

Please can we stop talking about Kane Williamson as the captain in waiting and let the 23-year-old develop into a true world class performer.

A captain needs to earn his place first and foremost as a player, adding the captaincy at such a young age will not help his cause, neither will rushing him back into a test against the Windies straight from injury without a game under his belt.

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In the middle order it's time the star power of Brendon McCullum and Ross Taylor did the business. This pair are world class, they are our Michael Clarke and Kevin Pietersen, but they need to display more discipline and responsibility in their innings. Finally our tail must show itself to be brave and resilient under fire.

The West Indies tour hasn't started well. The "mix and match" warmup game in Lincoln left me cold. It's a debacle and shouldn't be allowed to happen again. The chance to play an international side is a huge honour, a stepping stone to greater things, something cricket administrators need to remember when arranging these games.

Hopefully the West Indies have 11 players in the country by Tuesday because we need them to deliver on some of their old-fashioned Caribbean fire and spice. It is a shame there is no Chris Gayle, but this summer we still get to see Darren Sammy, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Dwayne Bravo and Kieron Pollard. I would love to think that through a mix of passion, aggression, and skill displayed by both sides this series could match what is happening across the ditch and hook Kiwi cricket fans for the summer.

Speaking of across the ditch, I find myself standing firmly in Michael Clarke's corner on this sledging issue. Move on England and focus on the fight you are in because knowing Australia, there's plenty more where that came from.

- Fairfax Media

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