WELLINGTON–The undefeated New Zealand squad is preparing to take on Chris Gayle in the World Cup quarterfinals, regardless of any uncertainty over the fitness of the star West Indies batsman.
Gayle missed the West Indies last pool match against the United Arab Emirates on Sunday as the back injury which has troubled him for most of the past year flared again. The severity of the injury is unclear and it may be the West Indies simply rested him to be sure of his availability for the quarterfinals.
But New Zealand is taking no chances and when it carries out its routine scouting of the West Indies team this week, Gayle's potential influence will be a major focus.
"Obviously everyone knows what Chris Gayle can do and he is one of the biggest match-winners in world cricket, so it's important we put a little bit of focus on him," New Zealand batsman Kane Williamson said yesterday. "But it is more important we focus on ourselves ... and what we want to do.
"When he plays well, he takes any team down in world cricket. But ... we've got players who are world-class players as well that can take games away so it's going to be exciting game between two teams with match-winners."
Gayle has the World Cup record for highest score – his 215 against Zimbabwe – but otherwise had scores in pool matches of 36, 4, 3, and 21. He often struggled to get through the critical first 10 overs, after which scoring can be become easier.
New Zealand on Saturday will realise the necessity of removing Gayle early and will rely on the ability of opening bowlers Trent Boult and Tim Southee to make that breakthrough. If Gayle is able to settle, he will be especially dangerous. But Williamson stressed the necessity in knockout play of coping with any eventuality.
"It's important you are relaxed and calm because that's when you play your best cricket," he said. "With it being on the line we need to look at it with freedom so we can express ourselves in high-pressure situations."
Williamson said New Zealand's six games had all been very different, but together had provided the perfect preparation for the knockout stage.
"It's nice to have all those experiences going into the quarterfinal but we need to keep playing with that calm aggression we have had in the group stage," he said. "Going into a quarterfinal we are not expecting everything to fall into place perfectly. We need to roll with the momentum shifts and stay calm." (CMC)