International Cricket

T20 World Cup 2024 – Rovman Powell and Gary Stead ahead of West Indies vs New Zealand

Both teams were forced to cut their preparations short at the Brian Lara Stadium ahead of Wednesday night’s Group C fixture. New Zealand abandoned their afternoon training session an hour before schedule due to “unacceptable” practice strips, while heavy rain wiped West Indies’ floodlit session out altogether.

It is the start of the rainy season in Trinidad and the national meteorological service issued a yellow-level adverse weather alert on Tuesday morning, signalling the likelihood of thunderstorms. There was a brief downpour during New Zealand’s session – when the pitch was uncovered – and longer, heavier ones followed after they left. Wednesday night’s forecast is much better.

“We had that downpour for about five minutes, and the practice wickets got wet out in the middle,” Gary Stead, New Zealand’s coach, said after returning to the team hotel in Port-of-Spain. “I know the priority was obviously for the match wicket to get covered, but when we went back and tried them they were pretty slippery to stand up on.”

New Zealand briefly tried to use the practice strips but swiftly gave up. “The balls were going through the top of the surface, so we had a good fielding training instead,” Stead said. “It was deemed not really acceptable to get anything out of the nets… The guys worked out pretty quickly that there wasn’t going to be a lot of point in it”

“The balls were going through the top of the surface, so we had a good fielding training instead. It was deemed not really acceptable to get anything out of the nets.”

Gary Stead on New Zealand’s practice session that was cut short

An 84-run defeat to Afghanistan in their opening match on Friday means that a loss against West Indies would effectively – if not quite mathematically – eliminate New Zealand from the World Cup. Powell, West Indies’ captain, believes that his side can exploit New Zealand’s slow start to the tournament.

“Definitely, if there’s a good time to play New Zealand, I think it’s now,” Powell said. “As you said, they’re a little bit undercooked. The pressure is really on them, because this game decides whether they go on: yes or no. Having said that, we’re not focusing on New Zealand: we’re focusing on what we have to do.”

With New Zealand’s limited preparation for the tournament already under scrutiny, their batters have barely been able to face fast bowling in the nets since arriving in Trinidad. They travelled from Guyana on Saturday and trained on Sunday, but faced similar issues.

“Again, the pitches weren’t great,” Stead said. “Balls were rising up around throat height regularly, so it was more facing the slower bowlers and throws. It comes back to making sure that mentally we get in a good frame of mind and ready for this match tomorrow night.”

England racked up 267 against West Indies at the Brian Lara Stadium in December but Stead believes that score was an outlier, and expects a much lower-scoring game on Wednesday.

“If you look at the history of the ground here… it’s certainly not a 200 wicket or anything like that. The pitch looked interesting. For us, it’s about making sure we’ve got our bases covered.”

Powell also hinted towards a low-scoring game. “With the rain around, that can play a part in the scores,” he said. “If the groundsmen don’t have sufficient time to produce good wickets, that’s also a problem with the rain around. You don’t get enough time to sun. Hopefully tomorrow is a very good day in terms of the weather.”

New Zealand’s management have made clear that they expect all 15 players in their squad to play a role in the World Cup and are set to bring Ish Sodhi into the side on Wednesday night. James Neesham could also come into contention, with Stead suggesting that selection will be heavily influenced by West Indies’ potential weaknesses.

“Every game, we try to go in and work out what our best match-ups are,” Stead said. “That comes from the data analysis and videos that we do in our scouting. I would expect there will be some changes.” He also hinted heavily at Sodhi’s inclusion: “When we look at the West Indies team, [he is] a guy that matches up well against a number of their opposition players.”

New Zealand’s net run rate took a significant dent against Afghanistan, to the extent that winning their remaining fixtures – against West Indies, Uganda and Papua New Guinea – might not be enough to qualify for the Super 8s, depending on other results in Group C.

“We know what’s in front of us: we have to win three games and win them well,” Stead said. “It’s [about] still holding the belief and the confidence within the group that we can go out there and do this. We know things are stacked against us at the moment but that’s the challenge; that’s the cards we’ve been dealt. We now have to go out there and put in a performance that we’re proud of.”

Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @mroller98

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