HAMILTON - It's been a terrible two months on the road for West Indies. The injuries have piled up as quickly and as scarily as the losses. The ODI captain flew in to New Zealand and spoke about a lack of unity in the side that had lost two Tests and saved the third with help from rain and his brother.
The under-fire Test captain somehow came up with two backs-to-the-wall, match-winning knocks - both in ODIs - one each in Visakhapatnam and Auckland. Those innings gave West Indies their only win each on the tours of India and New Zealand.
The Test captain then slipped out of contention on a wet outfield in Queenstown, following which Corey Anderson pummeled West Indies for the fastest ODI hundred. Ravi Rampaul became the seventh first-choice player unavailable when he pulled out of the Nelson game with a broken finger.
How many of the remaining few fit players will be praying for rain in Hamilton? Rain is expected this night in the city but there is no more than a 20-30% chance of it during the match. Probably all of the West Indies players will just want to leave this wet, cruel summer as soon as possible and head home to the Caribbean. But there's still a series on the line. It can't be won at 1-2, but a loss can be averted.
If West Indies fail to win in Hamilton, New Zealand will have another series in their pocket, to go with unexpected victories in the past year in South Africa and England, and a 1-1 result in Sri Lanka with a second-string side. While these signify their under-rated prowess as a one-day outfit, the 0-3 wipeout in Bangladesh stands out as a sudden, but not entirely surprising, blip. It is that missing consistency that they will want to achieve. The selectors have put their faith in this group of players and said they want to keep them together. It is up to the players to repay that with a series win in Hamilton before the tougher contests against India.
The difference between the two sides begins right at the top. Jesse Ryder has absorbed the emotion and hype around his much-awaited return - and an unfortunate duck in his comeback innings - to crack a 46-ball century in Queenstown and a breezy 47 in Nelson. Johnson Charles didn't have to make a comeback; he's had a sustained run at the top of the order since the Champions Trophy. He didn't have a bad 2013, but his returns have tapered off since the India tour - 42, 12, 11, 9, 0 and 0. Given the tattered state the side finds itself in, Charles will have to show some responsibility.
West Indies will have 13 players to choose from as opposed to 12 for the Nelson game. The allrounder Andre Russell joined the squad on Monday for the Twenty20s and will be considered for selection for the Hamilton ODI. With Denesh Ramdin saying the pitch had some grass, Russell could replace Nikita Miller. With the series at stake, New Zealand should stick to the XI that played in Nelson.
NEW ZEALAND: Martin Guptill, Jesse Ryder, Kane Williamson, Ross Taylor, Brendon McCullum (capt), Corey Anderson, Luke Ronchi, (wk), Nathan McCullum, Tim Southee, Mitchell McClenaghan, Kyle Mills
WEST INDIES: Johnson Charles, Chadwick Walton, Kieran Powell, Kirk Edwards, Lendl Simmons, Dwayne Bravo (capt), Denesh Ramdin (wk), Narsingh Deonarine, Andre Russell, Nikita Miller, Sunil Narine, Jason Holder, Tino Best.