West Indies will be hoping limited-overs specialist Chris Gayle can be a game-changer and inspire a misfiring batting line-up when the Caribbean outfit take on New Zealand in a three-match One-Day International series, starting on Wednesday. The Windies were lacklustre with the bat and in the process were outclassed 2-0 by the Black Caps in the Test series. West Indies with Gayle now in the side will be hoping for a change in fortunes, especially considering the form the big Jamaican showcased in the recently-concluded Bangladesh Premier League.
Gayle 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 Wednesday's first ODI as a busy season looms with home matches against Pakistan, Australia and England.
New Zealand: Kane Williamson (capt, first ODI only), Todd Astle, Trent Boult, Doug Bracewell, Lockie Ferguson, Matt Henry, Tom Latham (capt, second and third ODIs), Adam Milne, Colin Munro, Henry Nicholls, Tim Southee (first ODI only), Ross Taylor, George Worker, Neil Broom (second and third ODIs), Mitchell Santner (second and third ODIs)
West Indies:Jason Holder (capt), Jason Mohammed, Shimron Hetmyer, Ronsford Beaton, Shannon Gabriel, Chris Gayle, Kyle Hope, Shai Hope, Sheldon Cottrell, Evin Lewis, Nikita Miller, Ashley Nurse, Rovman Powell, Chadwick Walton, Kesrick Williams
(With AFP Inputs)