MANCHESTER, England – West Indies are hoping “frank discussions” will trigger the turnaround in form necessary to upset unbeaten New Zealand in tomorrow’s critical encounter at Old Trafford, and keep alive their already fading hopes of reaching the semi-finals of the ICC World Cup.
The Caribbean side have managed only a single win in five outings and with just three points in their column and four games left in their campaign, a positive result against New Zealand has now become imperative if they are to avoid early elimination.
And captain Jason Holder told reporters today the significance of the contest was not lost on the team, pointing out they were focusing on improving their execution following their last defeat against Bangladesh on Monday in Taunton.
“I think we still have a possible chance to qualify for the semi-finals, but we’ve just got to take it game by game,” said Holder.
“This encounter with New Zealand is very important. We all know what’s at stake and we just have to come and bring our A game. It’s as simple as that.”
He continued: “I don’t think it’s a situation where you’ve had to be tough. We’ve had a few frank discussions within the dressing room to find ways in which we can improve on. I think all teams would get themselves in that situation at some point.
“We’ve had some pretty good discussions over the last couple of days and tomorrow is just a day to deliver.”
West Indies have not delivered since their opening game against Pakistan three weeks ago at Trent Bridge when they crushed the Asian side by seven wickets, after blasting them out for a paltry 105 with hostile fast bowling.
Since then, they have lost three of four matches as their strategy of aggressive short-pitched bowling has backfired. Not only that but their much vaunted batting which piled up a mammoth 421 against New Zealand in a warm-up game in Bristol last month, has also failed to spark.
Criticised by several great former West Indies players earlier this week for their “one-dimensional” approach, Holder acknowledged his side needed to be more adaptable in responding to game situations.
“It’s just a situation where we’ve just got to play smarter cricket. We’ve just got to seize the crucial moments in the game – I don’t think we’ve done that well enough here in this tournament so far,” Holder lamented.
“I don’t think the ground would pretty much hamper us thinking it through a lot better. We’ve got to be a little bit clearer as to our plans, make sure we make adjustments on any given day if our plan A doesn’t work.”
He added: “I think the only thing we can do is come and play a solid game of cricket tomorrow against New Zealand. I think there’s been enough talk going around for quite some time.
“And we’ve just got to play cricket now. I think we’ve done enough talking as a group. It’s just a matter for us to deliver.”
The West Indies look likely to enter the contest without Andre Russell who has been playing despite not being fully fit for international cricket.
Included in the squad despite a chronic knee injury that has tormented him in recent years, the 31-year-old has struggled throughout the tournament and has failed to last a single game.
Yet again, Russell was in visible pain during West Indies’ seven-wicket defeat to Bangladesh in Taunton last Monday, and Holder said he was unlikely to suit up tomorrow.
“We’ve still got a few niggles within the group. We’re trying to manage niggles the best we possibly can,” he said.
“I think one guy who probably maybe definitely out tomorrow is Russell. I don’t think he’s fit enough to go tomorrow, but everybody else should be good to go.”
Russell is viewed by West Indies management as a match-winner but his lack of fitness has been palpable, leading to questions being raised about his continued inclusion in the side.
He has bowled only 19 overs in four matches and taken five wickets, and his batting has also failed to live up to expectations, yielding a mere 36 runs from three innings.
West Indies will need to conjure up a special performance against a New Zealand side yet to falter in the tournament and against whom they have lost six of their last seven ODI meetings.
They will, however, take confidence from their warm-up contest against the Black Caps when their batting group produced an awesome glimpse of their capabilities in a 91-run win.
Pointing to the performance, Holder said it remained a template for West Indies going forward.
“It just shows what we can produce. It’s a situation where we’ve just got to pull on those resources, remember the things that we did in that game,” the all-rounder noted.
“And it just shows that when we’re at our best what we can produce. I just think the guys just need to be clear, need to be calm and just execute their plans.”
New Zealand are second in the standings on nine points, one point behind leaders and reigning world champions Australia.
SQUADS: WEST INDIES – Jason Holder (captain), Fabian Allen, Darren Bravo, Shannon Gabriel,
Shimron Hetmyer, Evin Lewis, Nicholas Pooran, Andre Russell, Carlos Brathwaite, Sheldon Cottrell,
Chris Gayle, Shai Hope, Ashley Nurse, Kemar Roach, Oshane Thomas
NEW ZEALAND – Kane Williamson (captain), Ross Taylor, Tom Latham, Tom Blundell, Mitchell Santner, Colin de Grandhomme, Lockie Ferguson, Tim Southee, Trent Boult, Colin Munro, Ish Sodhi, Henry Nicholls, Martin Guptill, Matt Henry, Jimmy Neesham. (CMC)