Gayle key to New Zealand series

West Indies captain Chris Gayle looms as the most influential figure in the one-day cricket series against New Zealand which opens on Wednesday.

updated: December 31, 2008 13:55 IST
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West Indies captain Chris Gayle looms as the most influential figure in the one-day cricket series against New Zealand which opens on Wednesday.

New Zealand view the tall left-hander as the one player they must dismiss cheaply if they are to be in with a chance, while the West Indies see their skipper as laying the foundation of their performance.

Depending on how the series pans out, New Zealand can either rise to fourth or tumble to eight in the world rankings.

The five matches should also deliver an overall series winner after the first half of the West Indies tour resulted in two drawn Tests and a win apiece in the two Twenty20 fixtures.

New Zealand captain Daniel Vettori said Gayle's influence could not be overstated.

"We view Gayle like they probably view Brendon (McCullum). If they can get him early or we can get him early, that changes the momentum of the game," Vettori said.

Gayle was instrumental in dictating the outcome of two of the four internationals played on tour so far.

In the second Test, his 197 runs in eight-and-a-half hours at the crease stymied New Zealand's second innings run chase, and he belted 25 off Vettori in the match-winning over of the first Twenty20 clash.

But when he was out in just the second over of the second Twenty20, the West Indies fell 36 runs short of their target.

"When you come across sides with a guy playing so well, if you can get him out early it sort of deflates the rest of the guys in the team," said New Zealand fast bowler Kyle Mills.

"He's a big player for them, he's probably the most in-form batsman going around at the moment. He's a big wicket, so is (Shivnarine) Chanderpaul and (Ramnaresh) Sarwan."

Gayle averages 40.06 in one-day cricket, although that drops to a less than spectacular 26.07 against New Zealand.

Either a 5-0 or 4-1 series win will lift New Zealand past Pakistan and into fourth place behind Australia, South Africa and India.

If the results go the other way, a 5-0 win to the West Indies will lift them to seventh and New Zealand will fall to eighth.

A 3-2 win to the West Indies would push New Zealand below England to sixth place.

Player rankings indicate the West Indies have a batting edge with Chanderpaul (fifth), Gayle (sixth) and Sarwan (13th) all well ahead of the top-ranked New Zealander Ross Taylor, who is 29th.

But bowling strength rests with New Zealand. Left-arm spinner Vettori is ranked second in the world, Mills is fifth and Jacob Oram is tied in eighth place with the best of the West Indies bowlers, Jerome Taylor.

Both sides have made changes for the one-day matches.

New Zealand have brought in a specialist batsman, debutant Neil Broom, to replace injured all-rounder Scott Styris for the series.

Other changes from the Twenty20 squad see the recall of Jamie How and Grant Elliot at the expense of James Franklin and Ewen Thompson.

The tourists have brought in Nikita Miller, the leading wicket-taker in the last West Indies domestic season, to replace Sulieman Benn, who performed with distinction in the Tests and Twenty20 matches.