WELLINGTON, New Zealand, Friday March 20, 2015, CMC – West Indies enter the last quarter-final of the ICC Cricket World Cup here Saturday (Friday, 9 pm Eastern Caribbean time) facing a Herculean task against high-favoured New Zealand, and aware they have not been given half a chance of winning the contest.
Understandably, pundits have installed New Zealand as the heavy favourites. The joint hosts have been imperious, racking up six wins during the preliminary phase to finish unbeaten and at the top of Group A.
West Indies, in contrast, have been patchy. They won three and lost three to finish level on six points in fourth place with minnows Ireland, and sneaked into the second round courtesy of a superior net run rate.
The contrasting paths to the quarter-finals symbolise the huge gulf between the two teams but West Indies captain Jason Holder is not buying into the idea that his side are simply awaiting an inevitable hammering.
In fact, shorn of the burden of expectation, the Windies have been busy plotting what would be one of the major upsets of the World Cup.
“We’re pretty much up for the game. It’s a do-or-die situation, it’s go big or go home so that’s enough motivation for the guys just to go out there and put in their all,” Holder told a media conference here Friday.
“It (victory) would be a huge thing for us. If you’ve been following, people pretty much wrote us off from the beginning of the tournament, they didn’t expect us to get to the quarter-final stage and now we’re here.”
He continued: “For us, we’re just going out all guns blazing tomorrow and just giving our all. New Zealand can be beaten, we’ve beaten them in the past in the last series we played them here so we will be looking to beat them again tomorrow.”
New Zealand have moulded a formidable unit and West Indies are expected to have their hands full. The new ball pair of Trent Boult and Tim Southee have been devastating up front. Boult has taken 15 wickets and Southee, 13, and together have tormented opposing batsmen with their pace and movement.
In the middle order, West Indies will face the likes of Ross Taylor, Grant Elliott and Corey Anderson, in what is expected to be a stern test.
Holder acknowledged the form of the Black Caps but contended that West Indies were now coming into their own, and planned to play tough, aggressive cricket to force New Zealand into mistakes.
“Brendon McCullum is carrying some form but obviously are bowlers are also carrying some form. We’ve got Jerome Taylor who’s up there for the most wickets in the tournament and myself, I haven’t done too badly,” he stressed.
“We will be our normal selves in the power-play, we just have to be disciplined. I think aggression is also key. Brendan is pretty much an aggressive batsman so we will probably fight fire with fire with him and just try to get the better of him.”
Holder said the Windies batsmen would also try to unsettle the feared New Zealand attack.
“We always try to set up the game for the power hitters to come at the end and be explosive and I think it is important we assess the conditions as early as possible when we bat,” he said.
“With Boult and Southee doing pretty well, it’s just a matter of not being fearful of them and just playing our natural game and take the attack to them in a sense. Once we do that, I think we can put them on the backfoot early on and set up the game for our power players in the end.
“Ideally, New Zealand’s middle order hasn’t been tested in a sense in this tournament so it is important that we get early wickets and test them in tomorrow’s encounter.”
The form and fitness of veteran opener Chris Gayle has once again become a front burner issue. He missed the last game against United Arab Emirates through injury and apart from the double hundred against Zimbabwe, has struggled for runs.
While he trained Friday, Holder said a decision would only be made on his participation on game day, but he hoped the big-hitting left-hander would be available.
“He had an injection and a scan. The scan didn’t show anything major so we will see how he pulls up today and make a decision [Saturday] morning,” Holder said.
“Chris’ stature speaks for itself. He is one of the most feared batsmen in world cricket so to have Chris in my squad is a plus for anybody. To just have him there, his presence alone is felt and we hope he can just perform the way he has been known to perform over the years and we can get the best out of him.”
He added: “We won the last game without him so obviously we can win without him. He’s been a good player for us over the years but it has been shown that we have players who can fit the bill.
“We have Jonathan Charles who came in in the last game and got a half-century and looked the part so we have people who can fill the boots in a sense but obviously having Chris will be plus for us.”
SQUAD – Jason Holder (captain), Marlon Samuels, Chris Gayle, Johnson Charles, Dwayne Smith, Lendl Simmons, Darren Sammy, Jonathan Carter, Denesh Ramdin, Sulieman Benn, Nikita Miller, Andre Russell, Kemar Roach, Jerome Taylor, Sheldon Cottrell.