WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AFP) — West Indies believe Chris Gayle will have a major impact on Saturday’s World Cup quarter-final against New Zealand, even if he’s only half fit.
Gayle missed Sunday’s six-wicket win over the United Arab Emirates in Napier, which secured the West Indies’ place in the last eight, after failing to shrug off his latest back problem.
In his absence, Johnson Charles, originally summoned to replace Darren Bravo, seized his opportunity to impress with a fine innings of 55.
“Chris had the same back problem over the last year, and sometimes he has good days and sometimes he has bad days. Obviously, he’s a key player for us and his fitness is key going into the quarter-final,” said captain Jason Holder.
“I’m sure he’ll be up for it even if he’s not a hundred per cent. It’s an important game and he’s a big player; you know what big players can do on big days. I’m sure he’ll be up for it even if he’s not 100 per cent.”
Gayle, 35, has had a roller-coaster tournament with his World Cup record 215 against Zimbabwe in Canberra on February 24 being the only time he has got past 50.
Johnson’s half-century against the UAE will put the pressure on Gayle’s opening partner Dwayne Smith to keep his place after a miserable tournament in which his top score is just 31 in six innings.
“Obviously, Johnson had a very good day. And I would say he’s pretty much secured a spot for the next game. But we’ll sit down, discuss and see what conditions we’re up against and make a decision,” said Holder.
Big-hitting New Zealand batsman Kane Williamson said the Black Caps will be wary of the potential match-winning credentials of Gayle.
“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,” said Williamson, whose mighty six gave New Zealand their tense one-wicket win over Australia in Auckland last month.
“When he plays well, he takes any team down in world cricket. But the nature of cricket is that if you bowl well, you can get anyone out and we’ve got players who are world-class players as well that can take games away, so it’s going to be an exciting game between two teams with match winners.”
New Zealand have won 23 of the 53 completed ODIs against the West Indies but lost their last meeting, in Hamilton in 2014, by 203 runs.
However, the Black Caps will still be favourites to make the semi-finals, having won all of their six group games in the first round.