Wellington, New Zealand: The West Indies' sportsmanship in the lead-up to Saturday's Cricket World Cup quarterfinal against New Zealand proves the adage that many a true word is spoken in jest.
The tone of the West Indies' trash talk has been that unbeaten New Zealand, unbeaten and riding a growing wave of expectation, is under more pressure than its opponents.
Darren Sammy, who fired the first salvo of the pre-match phony war, pointed out that the West Indies are proven in the knockout rounds of world tournaments and historically have the edge over New Zealand when in counts most.
"It's a big occasion but we're not going to be overwhelmed by it," Sammy said. "We've played New Zealand in the quarter-finals of World Cups before. Yes, it was a T20 World Cup but when it came down to crunch time, we won.
"This time around it won't be any different. It will be a full house rooting for New Zealand but we know within our group once we do the basics, the things we know we can do well, we're unstoppable."
Several former West Indies greats — among them Brian Lara, Sir Viv Richards and Curtley Ambrose — have echoed Sammy's view.
Richards, in a column Friday, said New Zealand "are the in-form team of the tournament, have won all their games in the pool stage and are one of the favorites. But West Indies have nothing to fear."
"They have the batting personnel to do it on any given day and their bowling has improved dramatically over the course of last two-three matches," Richards said. "Regardless of how New Zealand have played, I believe West Indies can turn the corner and deliver that one bad match for the Black Caps."
New Zealand has not taken the West Indies verbal bait, but the team knows a 6-0 record in pool play counts for nothing on Saturday.
The Black Caps have played consistently well across the tournament whereas the West Indies' form has swung wildly, from wins over Pakistan and Zimbabwe to losses to Ireland, India and South Africa.
The West Indies' batsmen posted three centuries in the group games, New Zealand's only one, although that was also a consequence of the face New Zealand often chased small totals.
West Indies pacemen Jerome Taylor and Jason Holder have bowled exceptionally well in the first 10 overs, taking more wickets at a better economy rate than any new ball pair at the tournament.
"It's a huge thing for us," Taylor said. "People pretty much didn't expect us to get to the quarterfinal stage and now we're here.
"We're just going out all guns blazing tomorrow and just giving our all. New Zealand can be beaten. We beat them in the past in our last series we played them here, and I know that we can beat them tomorrow."
New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum dismissed pre-match talk of favorites and underdogs.
"Once the coin goes up and the contest between bat and ball starts, all of that talk, all of the pre-match favoritism goes out the window," McCullum said. "Tomorrow is no different just because it's a quarterfinal.
"We know that on paper we're a strong team but we need to make sure that we turn up and display the type of skills that we've been able to throughout this tournament. If we do that, I'm sure we will be hard to beat."