The World Cup is now in the knockout stage and Darren Sammy chose to pull out a boxing analogy as he built up West Indies ahead of their quarter-final against New Zealand, insisting all the pressure was on the home side.
Sammy referenced the historic 1990 boxing bout between James ‘Buster’ Douglas and Mike Tyson in Tokyo, where Tyson, the undefeated and undisputed heavyweight champion, had been a clear favourite only for the unfancied Douglas to prevail via a knockout.
“I remember some guy called Douglas beating Mike Tyson and it’s a case of that on Saturday,” Sammy said. “We always believed from the time the tournament started, the first goal was to reach the quarter-finals. After that you’re two games away from a World Cup final. We’ve won two, it’s been a long time, but New Zealand have not won any.
‘No animosity between Jason and I’ – Sammy
Darren Sammy has said there are no issues between him and Jason Holder following the public disagreement the pair had against UAE when Sammy was pulled out of the attack after one over.
The two shared a few words before Sammy was sent into the deep for an over to calm down and he said there had always been a strong bond with Holder.
“No, there is no animosity between Jason and I. These things happen on a cricket field when you’re not too happy. It’s surprising it involves me because people don’t see me behaving that way. I was not really happy about the decision but he’s the captain and we don’t dwell on these things.
“I know you guys would like a lovely story but Jason and I go way back since he came into the team and we’re like brothers. I was one of the first guys who came out and gave my support and made sure the team rallied behind Jason.”
“I just watched the guys warm-up today and it’s a different feel. It’s the business end. You could win all your games then coming into the knockout there’s no guarantee you’re going to win. The guys know what’s at stake and we’re going to do everything in our powers to beat Mike Tyson.”
Expectations were low for West Indies after they suffered an opening-game defeat to Ireland in Nelson before back-to-back wins against Pakistan and Zimbabwe lifted them up the group table. That was followed by resounding defeats against South Africa and India, meaning they had to beat UAE while also improving their net run-rate.
“As you guys put it, we were not supposed to be here,” Sammy said. “Here we are, a knockout game, so the pressure is on the home team. They are the favourites to win, so the question is, what are they going to do when they play West Indies in a knockout. We’re not too bad in knockout games. We’re just going to enjoy it. The pressure is not on us.”
The last time the two sides met in a one-day series it ended 2-2 during the 2013-14 season, but Sammy was keen to recall the previous meeting when tournament progression was on the line at the World T20 in 2012. The teams were tied after 20 overs in the Super Eight clash in Pallekele before West Indies prevailed in the Super Over when Tim Southee could not defend 16.
“When it came down to crunch time, we won. Same set of players,” Sammy said, invoking a little artistic license as only six West Indian players and four New Zealanders from that match are likely to appear in Wellington.
“This time around it won’t be any different. A full house will be rooting for New Zealand but we know within our group once we do the basics, the things we know we can do well, we are unstoppable. We’ve been very inconsistent but it’s a knockout game and if we put together all the good things we know we can do right then no team can beat us. I know the other teams know that as well.”
Sammy acknowledged how well Southee and Trent Boult have been performing at the World Cup and picked out the first 10 overs of West Indies’ batting innings as a pivotal period of the match. And, with a powerful jab to the solar plexus, he went as far as to say that New Zealand “didn’t have an answer” in the death overs against Bangladesh.
It was the first time they had been severely tested late in an innings in their six group matches and the final 10 overs cost 104 with Brendon McCullum using up his frontline resources in the search for wickets, which meant Grant Elliott bowled two of the final three overs.
“When we bat Boult and Southee have been bowling very well with the new ball. Once we don’t let them get wickets up front, as you watched in the game against Bangladesh coming down to the end they didn’t have an answer. You saw Grant Elliott bowling in the last four overs. That’s something where they have not been put under and they didn’t respond well against Bangladesh.”
New Zealand’s players have said very little in the build-up, but for all Sammy’s chest-thumping words it was all shadow-boxing. The telling blows come later. That 1990 win for Douglas was also his last hurrah. It remains to seen how many punches West Indies have left to throw.