Forget the fact that it was 10 degrees Celsius yesterday, there was no stopping how warm the West Indies spirits were ahead of their “do or die” quarter-final match against New Zealand tonight in the ICC Cricket World Cup.
Wellington reportedly has not been this cold since winter. The players looked like footballers in English weather training with ski hats and mittens yesterday at the Basin Reserve. But it won’t be much different tonight (9.30 p.m. ECT) when the first ball bowls off at the Westpac Stadium.
There was still no sign of Chris Gayle at the ground. The left-handed opening batsman was back at the team hotel resting his sore back that has been plaguing him for quite some time, even though word is that he will play tonight.
All of the team members have been a buzz on this leg of the tour and after practice yesterday they were all treated to a superb tour of the Lord of the Rings studio which was a totally enjoyable experience before heading back to the Hotel for their final strategic meeting.
Declaring that even though the bowling unit needs to be a bit more consistent, bowling consultant Sir Curtly Ambrose says that the team is prepared for the match, even if they had to play again without Gayle.
“Chris hasn’t been fully fit for a while and I am a realist when I say that my bowlers need to be more consistent. But these situations tend to bring out the best in these guys, I assure you. So when play starts tomorrow (tonight) I know we will see a determined West Indies,” Ambrose told the Express.
Being real like Ambrose, the West Indies have quite a few hills to climb if they are to win.
They have lost 15 of 27 matches to the Kiwis and memories of their tour here early last year were not so pleasant, as they lost that series convincingly.
New Zealand are unbeaten at the World Cup, with two bowlers in particular on top of their game in Tim Southee and Trent Boult who came up trumps in their hardest match against Australia.
So while the fitness of Gayle will be key, a team performance is what the doctor will order for the regional unit.
Darren Sammy chose to pull out a boxing analogy as he built up the match.
The St Lucian 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 has not won any,” Sammy said.
For all that, they must prove their worth this evening.