New Zealand captain Kane Williamson is impressed that India did not let Hardik Pandya‘s absence hurt them but reminded that they too have done some “good stuff” in the World Cup and “anything can happen” if they they play to their potential. India are the only team to reach the knockout stage without losing a single match, making it hot-favourite and the Kiwis enter the knockout match as ‘underdogs’, a tag Williamson has no qualms in accepting.
Williamson, though reminded that “anything can happen”, if they play to their potential.
“The underdog thing — from what you guys write I do not think it has changed too much, but that is fine, and India have been exceptional,” Williamson told the media on the eve of the match at the Wankhede Stadium.
However, the New Zealand captain said the semifinals would place every side on an even keel and the Kiwis have as much chance as their opponents.
“India are one of the, if not the best team going around and playing cricket that matches that, but we know as well on our day when we play our best cricket, it certainly gives us the best chance, and anything can happen,” he said.
Williamson praised India for creating the balance despite losing their only all-rounder Pandya midway through the league stage.
“Every team has a slightly different balance that they rely on and naturally with the injury to Hardik — it meant that their balance changed a little bit, but certainly did not change the outcome of what they were doing,” Williamson said.
“They (India) adjusted nicely, and you know our team tends to, or has done in the past anyway, played with a slightly different balance.
“When you get into tournaments as well, it is guys being nice and familiar with the roles that they have, whether that is with the ball or with the bat, and it all goes quite quickly so you are trying to make sure you build on those performances as a team,” he said.
“(India) have done it better than anybody so far in this competition. As a side, I think we have done some good stuff too,” he added.
Williamson spent a long time on the sidelines after injuring his knee at the start of the Indian Premier League this year and returned only in the World Cup after a long recovery process. He then suffered a fracture to his thumb a few games into the tournament which left him frustrated.
“An interesting journey for sure, from sort of, it (comeback) not being a chance to getting close and it becoming a reality and something to target, and certainly feeling really grateful to be here and then to get back and then break my thumb. It is not funny,” he said.
“It was quite frustrating and testing but still feeling that it had not ruled me out. It is nice to be fitter than perhaps I was yesterday and be sitting here.” The Kiwi skipper said facing the home team India would be a massive opportunity for both the teams to win and there were no clear favourites.
“We know it is going to be a really tough challenge. They (India) are a side that has been playing extremely well, but we also know come finals time, everything sort of starts again and it is all about the day,” he said.
Williamson was rich in praise for the young Rachin Ravindra, who finished the league stage at the third spot, amassing 565 runs in nine matches at an average exceeding 70.
“Quite incredible really, Ravindra burst onto the scene and in a big way in a role that perhaps was not sort of natural maybe within our environment, he did a bit of it domestically, but to do what he has done so far in this tournament with his feet firmly on the ground has been really, really special,” he said.
“He is an incredibly special and talented player and a fantastic individual in the environment. It is not just the volume of runs that he has achieved so far but how he has been scoring them and how it has been geared towards trying to move the team forward,” he added.
Williamson acknowledged that New Zealand do not get to play in front of packed stadiums back home and it was something that the team was looking forward to once again.
“We are expecting a fairly blue crowd that will be supporting their team and no doubt they will be very passionate about that. But at the same time, as a player, when you get the opportunity to play in front of those sorts of crowds as well, it is special.
“We have got a small country that does not always fill out the stadiums but you still appreciate the atmosphere that it brings.
“Not many people get that opportunity, playing against India in a World Cup semifinal is special and something to appreciate and look forward to,” said the usually measured Williamson.
New Zealand were the only side to have run India close in their league stage contest in Dharamsala, but despite a four-wicket loss the Kiwi captain said the outcome of their previous meet will have no bearing.
“When you get to finals, things sort of start again.”
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