Struggling Windies seek success against Black Caps
Fort Lauderdale, June 30: Following their recent disastrous tour of England, the West Indies will seek to brighten their summer when they face New Zealand in the first Twenty20 International of a two-match series starting here Saturday.
The West Indies failed to win a single match against the hosts, losing the three-match Test and One-Day International series by 0-2 margins, and also sliding to a heavy defeat in the one-off T20I last Sunday.
They were dogged throughout the tour by unfriendly wet, frosty early spring weather but will exchange this for sunny Caribbean-like temperatures for the weekend's doubleheader at Broward County Park Stadium at Lauderhill.
For the Windies, it will be the first time matches in a bi-lateral series will be played outside the Caribbean and captain Darren Sammy said his side were confident heading into the fixtures.
"Obviously most of us have not played here before so we'll go out there and play what we see. It's going to be a historical event here for us and we'd like to go down in history," he told reporters here Friday.
"We feel it's a home series for us. We feel really good to be here and we're looking forward to the two games and hopefully we can win.
"We've played some good cricket but we've been hampered by some crazy moments but we've put that behind us and hopefully we can be more consistent with our performances and there's no better place to start than at the start of the series.
"We know what's at stake; these are the last two games before the ICC Twenty20 World Cup so it's very important for us as a team."
Thankfully, the West Indies will face opponents in their half of the International Cricket Council rankings tables. The West Indies are ranked seventh in Tests with the Black Caps eighth with positions reversed in the ODI rankings.
However, the Kiwis are fourth in the T20 rankings while the Windies lie ninth but with a battery of Indian Premier League stars in their line-up, the Caribbean side have again found themselves fighting off the label of favourites.
For the umpteenth time in recent weeks, Sammy tried to dispel the notion his side were the ones to beat.
The Caribbean unit will boast plenty of firepower in the form of talismanic opener Chris Gayle, Kieron Pollard, Dwayne Smith, Dwayne Bravo and mystery off-spinner Sunil Narine.
Sammy said though they were not playing at one of the tradition Caribbean venues, the presence of a large Caribbean population in South Florida was enough motivation to perform.
"From the moment we arrived here it felt like home. The weather - and I understand they have a Caribbean-based population of over 500,000 people here," Sammy said.
"So come tomorrow, come Sunday we expect the atmosphere to be similar to playing in St Lucia or in Jamaica. We as a team we're going to relish this opportunity and look to come out and entertain the fans because at the end of the day they only watch on TV and now they have an opportunity to see the players."
Black Caps seamer Tim Southee said he expected not only the T20s but the entire series to be keenly contested.
New Zealand boast the likes of IPL star, captain Ross Taylor, Martin Guptill, Nathan McCullum and Doug Bracewell in their line-up.
"It'll be a good series right through to the Tests," Southee said.
"They're two evenly balanced sides and obviously have got world-class players in both sides. It will be an exciting challenge, but we're up for it."
The West Indies: Darren Sammy (captain), Samuel Badree, Dwayne Bravo, Johnson Charles, Fidel Edwards, Chris Gayle, Sunil Narine, Kieron Pollard, Denesh Ramdin, Ravi Rampaul, Marlon Samuels, Lendl Simmons, Dwayne Smith
New Zealand: Ross Taylor (captain), Martin Guptill, Rob Nicol, Daniel Flynn, Kane Williamson, Dean Brownlie, BJ Watling, Tom Latham, Jacob Oram, Andrew Ellis, Doug Bracewell, Nathan McCullum, Tim Southee, Kyle Mills, Ronnie Hira.