NZ cricketers call for cavalry early

By Michael Brown

The New Zealand cricket side will study flight schedules as much as pitch conditions as they look to turn around two heavy defeats to the West Indies on their tour of the Caribbean.

Coach John Wright said today he was exploring the possibility of arranging players picked for the test leg of the West Indies tour to arrive earlier than originally scheduled to boost a squad already hit hard by injuries and to give them vital cricket ahead of the most important component of the tour.

Mark Gillespie was today ruled out of the two-test series because of an ankle injury and he joins Ross Taylor (shoulder), Jacob Oram (knee) and Ronnie Hira (dislocated finger) on the injured list.

Trent Boult is already on his way to the Caribbean and Wright is now hoping some of Brendon McCullum, Neil Wagner, Chris Martin, Daniel Vettori and Kruger van Wyk will join the team before the end of the five one-dayers.

"We're exploring the possibility of getting some of the test players here a little earlier," Wright said. "The more cricket we can get leading into the test series is important, especially now we have had some injuries. It seems sensible to involve those who will be in the tests like Brendon. Trent Boult will hopefully get here earlier.

"That would be very helpful to get some of our players who will be involved in the tests here a little earlier and they could possibly play in the last couple of one-dayers."

The five-match one-day series starts on Friday morning (NZT) in Kingston, Jamaica, and New Zealand will need to improve dramatically from their performances in the two Twenty20 internationals. They lost the first by 56 runs and the second by 61 runs in a combined display of inept batting and bowling.

Wright felt his side would cope better with the 50-over format, given they could be more patient than Twenty20, but was looking for significant improvement in their bowling at the death and ability to play spin.

New Zealand dished up too many hittable balls, allowing the West Indies to post imposing scores of 209 and 177, and also struggled with Sunil Narine. The young off-break bowler snared seven for 46 in his eight overs, including four for 12 in the second match, and beguiled New Zealand's batsmen with his variations.

Wright has sent out orders to find as many decent, local spinners as possible to line up for net duty over the next two days as his batsmen work on playing spin better.

"We probably don't need to commit ourselves to the front foot," Wright said. "We need to use the depth of the crease. When you play spin bowling well, you get right back on your stumps or get out and meet the ball. That's something we need to work hard on in the next two days. It's going to be a challenge... [but] it's a great learning opportunity for our players. Spin bowling is something you have to master.

New Zealand's own bowling stocks have taken a hit with Gillespie's withdrawal. The 32-year-old was impressive on his return to test cricket against South Africa last summer but has failed to overcome a troublesome ankle injury and will remain in Wellington for treatment.

"We have Tim Southee and Kyle Mills here who are involved in the one-day series and we are hoping either of those would perform well enough to warrant selection [for the tests] because they are the ones who are actually playing cricket and that is probably the most important factor at this moment," Wright said. "They are probably the front runners at this stage."

- APNZ

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