The first Test between West Indies and New Zealand starting today at Sabina Park in Jamaica is “special” for a number of reasons.
One, it is Denesh Ramdin’s first after replacing Darren Sammy as skipper. It will also be Chris Gayle’s 100th Test.
Apart from that, the West Indies fans could also see the return of Jamaican pacer Jerome Taylor and left-arm spinner Sulieman Benn to the starting line-up after lengthy absences. Taylor’s last Test was against Australia in 2009 while Benn’s was against Sri Lanka in 2010.
“It is a special moment for myself, Chris Gayle and the Caribbean people. They are looking forward to us putting on a good show,” he said, noting that Gayle could give them exactly what they want.
“It is amazing to have a guy like that in your team. He has no plans of retiring anytime soon. He wants to go on and get more centuries for West Indies and win more matches for West Indies. He is a diehard West Indies player and diehard West Indies fan. I am sure he will pull out something special once he gets a start,” Ramdin added.
Taylor and Benn make up a new-look bowling attack which also includes fast bowler Kemar Roach who is back to full fitness following a shoulder injury and Shane Shillingford who will make his return to international cricket since being suspended for a suspect action. Ramdin expects both pace and spin to play key roles in the game.
“The pitch looks like a good one and if we play consistent cricket for the next five days, I think we can get a good result. It looks like a good batting track but it will crumble by the third and fourth day and hopefully the spinners in the both teams will have an opportunity to get wickets,” said Ramdin.
Speaking about their disastrous tour to New Zealand late last year into the beginning of this year, Ramdin said: “They outplayed us in their conditions but this is our conditions now. When you look back at the Test we played here, we outplayed them.”
He said while the home team will be wary of the opposition, they are confident they can come out on top.
“They are a very exciting team. Brandon McCullum and his guys, Kane Williamson and the exciting Ross Taylor and the bowling lineup is great. The left-arm seamers did wonders in New Zealand but hopefully we can overcome them in the Caribbean,” he added.
The series is also an opportunity for the eighth-placed West Indies to leapfrog sixth-placed New Zealand in the ICC Test rankings. If the home side wins the series 3-0, they will go ahead of the visitors.
West Indies (from): Denesh Ramdin (Captain), Chris Gayle, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Marlon Samuels, Darren Bravo, Sulieman Benn, Kraigg Brathwaite, Kirk Edwards, Shannon Gabriel, Jason Holder, Kieran Powell, Kemar Roach, Shane Shillingford, Jerome Taylor.
New Zealand (from): Brendon McCullum (Captain), Corey Anderson, Trent Boult, Mark Craig, Peter Fulton, Tom Latham, Jimmy Nesham, Luke Ronchi, Hamish Rutherford, Ish Sodhi, Tim Southee, Ross Taylor, Neil Wagner, BJ Watling, Kane Williamson.