WELLINGTON – West Indies will hope short-form master Chris Gayle can inspire a misfiring batting line-up in the one-day international series against New Zealand starting tomorrow (today 6 p.m. East Caribbean time).
The tourists meekly surrendered with the bat as they slumped to a 2-0 Test series whitewash against the Black Caps, and need a major improvement in the three ODI games.
Gayle, arriving fresh from a record-breaking stint in the Bangladesh Premier League, promises to inject the aggression and confidence lacking so far during the tour of New Zealand.
He smashed a record 18 sixes in an unbeaten 146 off 69 balls in the BPL final to add to the slew of titles he already holds in the ultra-short form of the game.
Afterwards, the 38-year-old told ESPNCricinfo he was “the greatest batsman of all time”.
His self-assessment may be debatable but New Zealand paceman Lockie Ferguson said the hosts were well aware of the threat the left-hander from Jamaica poses.
Ferguson said Gayle would need time to adjust to local conditions in the opening ODI at Whangarei’s Cobham Oval.
He said New Zealand’s new-ball combination of Tim Southee and Trent Boult would be aiming for an early breakthrough.
“Our opening bowlers are extremely good at swinging the ball, so I think there’s definitely a challenge for him there,” Ferguson told Radio Sport.
“Of course, if he gets going then he’s one of those world-class batters who can go a long time and score lots of runs.”
The West Indies, who are ninth in the ODI rankings, will be without batsmen Marlon Samuels (finger) and Sunil Ambris (broken arm) as well as bowler Alzarri Joseph (back).
The fifth-ranked New Zealanders are missing two of their biggest hitters in Martin Guptill (hamstring) and Colin de Grandhomme, who pulled out of the series after the death of his father.
They will also rest captain Kane Williamson and Southee after the first ODI as a busy season looms with home matches against Pakistan, Australia and England.
West Indies can close the gap on eighth-ranked Sri Lanka in the three-match series.
In the latest rankings released yesterday by the International Cricket Council, the Windies were ninth on 77 points, seven ratings points adrift of the Sri Lankans.
If West Indies sweep the series against the fifth-ranked Black Caps, they will move up six points to 83, just one point behind Sri Lanka. A 2-1 series win would hand them three points and see them jump to 80 points.
However, if the Windies lose 2-1 they will gain a single ratings point and drop a point if they lose the series 3-0.
The Caribbean side will fancy their chances against New Zealand.In their last 20 meetings in bilateral series, New Zealand have won nine and the Windies eight. The last series on New Zealand soil ended in a 2-2 draw, after one game was abandoned.
West Indies have had a disappointing run of recent in ODIs, however, losing 13 of their 20 outings this year, while winning just three.
Their 4-0 defeat to England in a five-match series last September saw them miss out on automatic qualification for the 2019 World Cup, as they finished outside of the top eight in the rankings.
Hosts England, along with the next seven nations in the rankings, achieved automatic qualification.
West Indies will now contest a 10-team qualifier next March in Zimbabwe to bid for one of the two remaining spots at the World Cup.
They will clash with the likes of Afghanistan, Ireland and Zimbabwe, along with the Netherlands, Scotland, Papua New Guinea and Hong Kong from the World Cricket League Championship, and two yet-to-be determined sides from the ICC World Cricket League Division Two. (AFP/CMC)