Andrew Alderson

Andrew Alderson is a sport writer for the Herald on Sunday.

Cricket: Windies woes nothing new for tourists

West Indies' spinner Sunil Narine. Photo / AP
West Indies' spinner Sunil Narine. Photo / AP

The current New Zealand cricket team might be suffering the pain of losing in the Caribbean but plenty of their predecessors have done likewise on more tumultuous tours.

Ahead of the first test of the current series, starting Wednesday in Antigua, New Zealand have won just one test against the West Indies at home - a match on the last tour at Bridgetown, Barbados in 2002. That win also gave them their first series in the West Indies in four attempts, starting in 1972.

Their one win in the recent five match one-day series (20 per cent) was also similar to the norm. New Zealand have won just five ODI matches in 21 (24 per cent) since 1985.

Two former players who experienced the best and worst of the West Indies were Ken Rutherford and Danny Morrison. Rutherford suffered a horrific test baptism, courtesy of fast bowlers Malcolm Marshall, Joel Garner and Michael Holding in 1985.

The then-19-year-old made 12 runs in seven innings, facing 72 balls in four tests. He took years to recover mentally before establishing himself as one of New Zealand's best batsmen of the early 1990s. He now works for the Phumelela betting agency in South Africa where he also used to captain the Gauteng province.

"I've spent the last 27 years trying to forget that series," Rutherford laughs. "I suspect a few of the New Zealanders are waking up worrying about their biggest threat [off-spinner] Sunil Narine like I was wide-eyed thinking about Garner, Holding and Marshall."

Narine tweaked terror into the New Zealanders with his 13 wickets at 11.23 in the one-day internationals and seven wickets at 6.6 in the twenty20s. His doosra has been devastating. Rutherford says it fits with the environment the West Indies are creating. "Sabina Park [venue for the second test] has changed since I was there. Back then, you could almost see your reflection in the pitch. It was so hard you could hardly put your sprigs in to take guard. In fact, I remember there was a sound like a 'pfft' when the ball hit. These days, it is more like an Asian pitch with the turn it takes. Antigua could offer something similar."

It's hard to get a gauge on the Sir Vivian Richards stadium wicket with just two tests being played there - both draws - including the 10-ball farce against England in 2009, when the ground was deemed unplayable. Three of the 28 wickets have fallen to spin. The last three tests at Sabina Park have all finished in results with 29 of the 110 dismissals the product of tweak.

"However, it could suit our guys, too, with Daniel Vettori and Tarun Nethula in the mix," Rutherford says. "The disturbing thing is we lost the last two ODIs. A couple of wins would've boosted confidence.

"[Neil] Wagner could also be useful in those circumstances because he gets the ball to reverse swing off abrasivesurfaces. He'd be perfect to get the ball pitched up and moving both ways, in combination with a veteran like [Chris]Martin."

Morrison went on the turbulent 1996 tour which resulted in Chris Cairns and Adam Parore walking out under the leadership of Glenn Turner, Gren Alabaster and Lee Germon. It was the back end of the West Indies' world cricket domination but players like Courtney Walsh, Curtly Ambrose, Jimmy Adams and Brian Lara were still in their pomp.

Morrison set his then-world record of 24 ducks in the second test as nightwatchman. He says the West Indians were uncompromising opponents.

"They'd come in and say 'Listen mon ... bumpers and yorkers ... that's all you're gonna get'. Then you got a barrage. Patterson Thompson clipped Nathan Astle under his chin. It was an ominous start to the series with blood splattered all over his shirt."

Morrison says he hopes the current players embrace the Caribbean atmosphere.

"I was always a music buff and loved the whole ghetto blaster culture. Then one day, we came across a big statue of Bob Marley with his guitar just down from Sabina Park on the humble outskirts of Kingston. That was surreal, as was the atmosphere at the grounds with 8-10 foot high speakers playing reggae, the waft of marijuana on the terraces and the transparent wine bottles full of local rum. It was a gladiatorial carnival and hard to concentrate, to be honest. It was hot, oppressive but intimate, if that makes sense."

Morrison says the parties after stumps helped to reduce the stress of a day's play.

"Antigua was a delight. Viv Richards' brother Mervin and a guy called 'Shipwreck' took us around. They took us to parties put on by sponsors and everyone got on great. We always seemed to end up doing The Locomotion which included swinging your hips and pelvic thrusts. The secret was not to get stuck behind [2.01m] Curtly Ambrose or you'd end up with his bum in your face."

- Herald on Sunday

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