WELLINGTON: Former captain Darren Sammy perhaps put it best when he likened West Indies’ quarter-final against joint hosts New Zealand, to a heavyweight boxing match against the once feared Mike Tyson. However, Sammy was quick to remind the media yesterday of what happened 25 years ago when the then undisputed heavyweight champion Tyson, boasting an unbeaten record, stepped into the ring against the unheralded Buster Douglas.
On that night in Tokyo, Douglas produced one of the biggest upsets, not just in boxing, but in sports history when he felled Tyson. Sammy is hoping for similar theatrics at Wespac Stadium come Saturday (9 p.m. tomorrow T&T time). “It’s a big match but I remember some guy named Douglas beating Mike Tyson,” Sammy said dryly.
“It is a case of that on Saturday but we always believed from the time the tournament started that the first goal was the reach the quarter-finals and after that, you’re two knock-out games away from a World Cup final. We’ve won two but it’s been a long time and New Zealand have not won any.”
He continued: “I watched the guys warm up today and it’s just a different feel. It is the business end. You can win all your games in the preliminary round but in the knock-out there is no guarantee you’re going to win, it’s who turns up on the day. “The guys know what is at stake and we’re going to do everything in our power to beat Mike Tyson.”
The Black Caps, like Tyson did then, enter the quarter-final with an unbeaten record. They produced a string of imperious performances along the way to win all six preliminary round games and top Group A, and have now been installed as heavy favourites to reach the final.
In contrast, West Indies can consider themselves fortunate to be in the second round. They opened with a shock four-wicket defeat to minnows Ireland, suffered heavy losses to India and South Africa, and had to beat United Arab Emirates in their final game to sneak into the quarter-finals courtesy of a superior net run rate, after finishing level on six points with Ireland.
Quite shrewdly, Sammy conceded that pundits had already written off the Caribbean side’s chances but stressed also that New Zealand would be the ones entering the match with the burden of expectations. “As you guys (media) put it, we were not supposed to be here but here we are in a knock-out game so the pressure is on the home team,” the all-rounder pointed out.
“They are the favourites to win so the question is: what are they going to do when they play West Indies in the knock-outs. We’re not too bad in knock out games so we’re just going to enjoy it. “Like you guys said, we were not supposed to be here so this is bonus and we’re going to enjoy it. The pressure is not on us.”
Despite the gulf between the two teams, Sammy said West Indies would not be overawed. In fact, he contended that the more relaxed the Windies were, the better they would perform. And as for the Black Caps’ authoritative form and the Windies’ glaring inconsistencies, Sammy said this would count for nothing in a do-or-die contest where just about anything could happen.
“In any World Cup match there is always pressure involved. We know there is pressure but not as big as on the home team, and the more relaxed we are, the more clearer we are as West Indians,” Sammy went to great lengths to point out. It’s a big occasion but we’re not going to be overwhelmed by it. We’ve played New Zealand in the quarter-finals of World Cups before. Yes, it was a T20 World Cup but when it came down to crunch time, we won.
“This time around it won’t be any different. It will be a full house rooting for New Zealand but we know within our group once we do the basics, the things we know we can do well, we’re unstoppable. We’ve been very inconsistent, that’s a fact but it’s a knock-out game and if we put together all the good things we know we can do right, no team will beat us.”