It took West Indies an arduous 54-hour journey from Barbados to Christchurch after stops in London, Dubai and Auckland. The challenge, however, was after landing, with a two-week mandatory quarantine awaiting them at the New Zealand high-performance centre at Lincoln University. And now that they are done with it and ready for a T20I and Test series against New Zealand, West Indies can proud themselves as the only team to undertake two overseas tours in the COVID-19 era.
New Zealand were the last team to have been playing international cricket against neighbours Australia when the pandemic struck with restrictions imposed across the globe, causing the series to be cancelled midway. Since then, they’ve had a national election, have as good as ridden themselves of Coronavirus altogether with the odd case here and there, and have even had one of their own – Greg Barclay – elected as ICC’s new Chairman.
Between March and November most players didn’t get enough opportunity to return to a cricket field, but a select few warmed up in the Caribbean Premier League and the Indian Premier League, bracing themselves for a home summer, hosting West Indies and Pakistan. However, six of Pakistan’s touring party testing positive for COVID while in managed isolation will throw caution to the organisers in how they go about conducting the series.
Both New Zealand and West Indies not having full strength squads lends the three-match T20I series some parity. New Zealand have rested Kane Williamson and Trent Boult for the T20Is, while Andre Russell, Lendl Simmons and Evin Lewis had opted out of selection. Those aside, they are missing Sunil Narine, Chris Gayle and Dwayne Bravo, giving the youngsters the opportunity to prove their mettle in their absence.
On their last tour to New Zealand in 2017-18, West Indies were winless right through, losing both Tests, three ODIs, and a 0-2 defeat in the three-game T20I series. While they have lost five of their last six T20I series, New Zealand are coming in with a losing streak they seek to break on Friday (November 27), having now lost seven straight T20Is, losing 0-5 to India last summer at home.
The players who returned from the IPL will only have finished their quarantine period today – a day prior to the opening T20I. The final T20I of the series, will however, see Mark Chapman, Doug Bracewell and Scott Kuggeleijn come into the T20I squad. Tim Southee, the T20I skipper, will be rested for the final game with Mitchell Santner standing in for him as captain.
West Indies will be thrilled not to be restricted to another bio-secure bubble in New Zealand, having a window into the normal of the past given the low number of COVID-19 cases. With all series since the resumption of cricket being played behind closed doors, cricket will have some semblance of normalcy when the crowds return to a cricket ground in Auckland with no restrictions on the capacity for tomorrow’s game. Three T20Is will be played in four days in a rather congested series than your typical one.
When: Friday, November 27, 2020; 11:30 am IST, 7:00 pm local
Where: Eden Park, Auckland
What to expect: A high-scorer at the unusually small Eden Park where mishits clear the fence comfortably. An overcast day awaits both sides.
New Zealand:Trent Boult and Kane Williamson have been rested for the T20I series. Kyle Jamieson, Tim Southee and Ross Taylor, however, will only play the first two T20Is before being rested ahead of the Tests. Lockie Ferguson, Jimmy Neesham, Mitchell Santner and Tim Seifert who are coming in from the IPL, will finish quarantine today and are expected to feature in the XI. Colin de Grandhomme misses out due to injury.
West Indies:Although missing big names, it’s an opportunity for the ones in the side to stand up and deliver. They have picked big-hitting wicketkeeper-batsman Andre Fletcher and all-rounder Kyle Mayers has earned a debut call-up. Led by skipper Pollard who had extremely good campaigns at both the IPL and CPL, it’s an opportunity for him to make the most of the resources at hand, who delivered at the IPL, to turn things around for the reigning world champions who ironically are languishing at No.9 in the T20I rankings.
What they said:
“What happens in terms of taking a knee or anything like that will be discussed with West Indies. We are meeting with them to make sure we understand how they feel about it and understand their point of view. It is part of our education.” – Gary Stead, New Zealand’s coach.
New Zealand: Tim Southee (c), Hamish Bennett, Devon Conway, Lockie Ferguson, Martin Guptill, Kyle Jamieson, Daryl Mitchell, Jimmy Neesham, Glenn Phillips, Mitchell Santner, Ish Sodhi, Tim Seifert (wk), Ross Taylor
West Indies:Kieron Pollard (c), Fabian Allen, Romario Shepherd, Sheldon Cottrell, Andre Fletcher, Shimron Hetmyer, Brandon King, Kyle Mayers, Rovman Powell, Keemo Paul, Nicholas Pooran, Oshane Thomas, Hayden Walsh Jr, Kesrick Williams
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