For all the talk about the batting woes of Brendon McCullum, his captaincy rival badly needs good performances during the West Indies test series.

Allrounder Darren Sammy, captain in 27 of his 35 tests, has been short of runs and wickets for the past year.

In that time, the 29-year-old from St Lucia has scored 123 runs in eight innings at 15 and taken just six wickets at 54 apiece.

On the recent trip to India, Sammy made just 25 runs in four innings and took no wickets from 25 overs.


Sammy is regarded as a good leader, but that carries a captain only so far, and he will be feeling the heat.

He is coming off six test wins in succession - two apiece against lower-ranked opponents New Zealand, Bangladesh and Zimbabwe - leading up to the Indian losses, so he has some credit. Sammy was also under the hammer for poor shot selection in India when his team were under the pump.

"I didn't have a good tour in India. I want to reassure myself as a test captain and cricketer," the West Indies captain said.

Even if the selectors were considering a change, the problem is a shortage of replacement candidates. Chris Gayle has been there, done that, and in any case isn't in New Zealand because of a hamstring tear.

Shiv Chanderpaul, at 39, is focused on his batting, and there are precious few alternatives. Sammy hopes the change of location from the heat of India to the bottom of the South Island, and a less frenzied atmosphere than that surrounding Sachin Tendulkar's final bow in cricket will help his players.

"Adapting as quickly as possible will pose a challenge," Sammy said. "India was a lesson for us, to show us where we are compared to the top teams in the world. Now we are playing a team where we are evenly matched. They will know conditions very well and for around three-quarters of our squad it's their first time here."

Indeed only Chanderpaul and wicketkeeper and vice-captain Denesh Ramdin have been to New Zealand before.

"It's not like the Caribbean where you can play through the line," Ramdin said of the batting challenge ahead of the tourists. "You have to assess the conditions and bat very long.

"The New Zealanders are going to bowl areas where they will try and get wickets early up so we have to work hard as a batting group."

Ramdin and tricky spinner Sunil Narine are battling head colds, courtesy of the significant change in climate, while batsman Kraigg Braithwaite arrived in Dunedin yesterday and the idea that he might make today's XI was laughed off.