New Zealand will most certainly start as favourites when the game gets underway in Wellington on Saturday. They will get a lot of support and I expect a lot of home fans to turn up. They are the in-form team of the tournament, have won all their games in the pool stage and are one of the favourites.
But West Indies have nothing to fear.
They did not have a great start to the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 and no one could have predicted that they would be here at this stage. It can even be said that they have been lucky enough to make it to the quarter-finals. They have had good days and bad days so far, but irrespective of their form, they shouldn’t be in awe of New Zealand’s record in the group stage.
It all comes down to what happens on the match-day’s evening.
As such, I believe that West Indies have it in them to upset the co-hosts. Not many will give them this chance, but I think they have been on a decent run off-late. And they have one or two good matches left in them. They have the batting personnel to do it on any given day and their bowling has improved dramatically over the course of last two-three matches.
Regardless of how New Zealand have played then, I believe West Indies can turn round the corner and deliver that one bad match for the Black Caps.
If he is fit enough to play, Chris Gayle will not want to miss on this quarter-final and he is a big-game player. Looking at his past record and what he has achieved so far, there is no doubt he can have a huge impact. But the one to watch out for will be Marlon Samuels. He is a class player and I have faith in his abilities. In such important situations he comes up with the goods.
New Zealand have a very potent bowling attack. And the West Indies’ batting will have to be at their very best, if they are to be successful. All the batsmen who haven’t done too well so far, Dwayne Smith, Dinesh Ramdin, Andre Russell, etc., they will have to put their hands up. There are enough runs to be found in this batting order. This quarter-final is a big opportunity for them to shine.
However, by no means, should they heap pressure on themselves. It can become a case of nerves then. They should remember that no one gave West Indies hope of reaching this stage of the tournament and yet they are here in the quarter-finals. So they should feel a little more relaxed about it and go out to play their natural game.
While the West Indies have nothing to fear, New Zealand will prove to be tough opponents, judging solely by the way they have played so far in this ICC Cricket World Cup. Tim Southee and Trent Boult have proven to be a fantastic new-ball pairing. And then they have the explosive Brendon McCullum leading them. It is not just his batting that I am talking about here, but also the way he has led this team.
The way he walks on to the field, the way he carries himself, there is an urgency that he brings to this New Zealand team. It is something you look forward to when watching him play. He will want to make a further mark at this stage, for he is in his thirties and it is expectedly his last World Cup. Such players will be looking to have an impact for their team, and Gayle is also among them.
Then there is also Daniel Vettori, who can never be counted out. He has been very instrumental for them as well. In the game against Australia, they got off to a flying start before he was brought on to bowl, much earlier than he usually does and he basically pulled back the Australian batsmen in a big way. He is and always will be a class act, and even for him, this is a last chance at glory. In fact, this is the best chance for New Zealand to lift the trophy, of winning the World Cup, because they have been playing so well as a team.
For West Indies, the key will be to get McCullum early. The Black Caps’ captain is quite aggressive and when you get him, it can upset their team. But they should also be mindful of the other batsmen. Even though their middle-order hasn’t been in the best of touch, one should never underestimate them, especially since they did come good in the last match.
Hence, it will not be about any one particular player that they will look to target. Instead West Indies need a collective all-round performance.
The manner in which they bowled against India in Perth suggested to me the huge improvement they have made. I believe New Zealand like to chase as they have only batted first once in this tournament. While the strategy is best left to the backroom staff, they would do well to remember that there are two sides to the coin, and it holds true for both sides.
So, ideally, the West Indies should look up to their main strength, batting, to carry them in this match and then they should look at the bowling to handle the pressure.
In the end, I would just like to reiterate that there is no big differentiator between the two teams, solely because it is a quarter-final. Form goes out of the door when it comes to the knock-out stages, and West Indies can make one big push irrespective of the opposition. It is all about what happens on that particular day. 2015 © ICC Development (International) Limited