Well that wasn’t the best start to the busiest twelve months of cricket for a New Zealand team ever. Two and a half weeks of staggering around Florida, Jamaica and St Kitts, all dazed and confused.
The less said about the T20s the better. The preparation was summed up by Daniel Flynn’s shirt, and after the first match the injury toll already stood at three. New Zealand looked as suitable for international cricket as the venue. But we’d better get used to these min-series of shortest form cricket in Florida.
And the 50 over series started no better, with Gayle at his bullying best ensuring that third-in-line Kane Williamson has a rough introduction to international captaincy. Suddenly the strange decision to give McCullum a break and leave James Franklin in London seem even more bizarre.
The turnaround in the third match was a promising turnaround. Like battling performances of years gone by, it was based on a strong fielding performance defending an average total.
But that win came at the cost of another injury. Watling was the only batsman holding it together at that stage, and his absence weakens the balance of the test side; effectively removing the option of playing a genuine spinner.
Taylor returned for the next match and immediately showed us what we’d been missing. Back to back ODI centuries for him, becoming only the second NZer to achieve that after … Mark Greatbatch. But some eccentric selection in dropping the most economical bowler in Kyle Mills had to be a factor in conceding 30 or so runs more than should have been the case. That and sending down 20 wides.
The last game provided a convenient summary of the tour. Another injury, bringing the total to seven (count them) and a good start in the field was blown. The batsmen with some form failing after getting a start, the batsmen who have been struggling looked even more out of depth.
Like in the previous match New Zealand were in the dominant position for the majority of the match and couldn’t do it.
So now we move into the longer format part of the tour. There is one 3 day Presidents’ match as warm-up. Are we meant to be satisfied with this? That’s not many days to play a lot of players into form.
On the bright side the arrival of McCullum and the return to fitness of Taylor gives the batting a much stronger look. There is something reassuring about the thought of a returning Chris Martin, and there’s some nervous optimism about the appearance of a return to form for Southee.
However, the biggest concern is Narine. A bowler who has yet to take a test wicket. 7 for 46 in the T20s, 13 for 146 in the ODI; going at under 3 an over. So New Zealand have been trying to just see him off, and even then he’s returning extraordinary figures. He may not be turning it a lot, but no-one is coming close to being able to read him.
And the successful introduction of Tino Best is a gentle reminder of what it was like touring the West Indies in the 1980s.
One thing that is likely is that New Zealand will be approaching the best form of the tour by about the time the third test rolls around…