New Zealand's captain Kane Williamson during a practice session ahead of the ICC Men's Cricket World Cup 2023 semi-final match between India and New Zealand, at Wankhade Stadium in Mumbai. (Image: PTI))
Mumbai: New Zealand will be up against a relentless India and a sea of blue at the Wankhede Stadium here on Wednesday but captain Kane Williamson, true to his character, remains cool as a breeze on the eve of the World Cup semifinal.
"We’re expecting a fairly blue crowd that will be passionately supporting their team. It’s going to be a really tough challenge," he said of the Indian fans who have boisterously cheered for the home side right through the tournament.
However, "I think as a player, when you get the opportunity to play in front of those sorts of crowds, it is special. Not many people get to do that, playing against India in a World Cup semifinal. They’re a side that’s been playing extremely well. But we also know come finals time, everything sort of starts again and it’s all about the day. We’ve played some good cricket throughout. We’ve had a couple of narrow losses and a few wins along the way which have put us in this position we’re in. So, we’re excited about the challenge ahead," he added.
The 33-year-old also underplayed the Underdog tag New Zealand have carried over the years, especially at big games. "India have been exceptional, one of the best teams going around, but we know on our day when we play our best cricket, it certainly gives us the best chance… and come finals (knockouts) time anything can happen," he said.
Williamson was also pleased to be in the thick of things after being pushed back by several injuries. "It was quite frustrating and testing but still feeling grateful that it hadn’t ruled me out. Personally, it’s great to be here and it’s nice to be a part of this tournament. These tournaments are special and world events in India certainly add to that," he said.
Captain Kane also had special praise for Kiwi opener Rachin Ravindra, who has been outstanding in his first World Cup. "Quite incredible really, he burst onto the scene in a big way. To do what he’s done so far in this tournament with his feet firmly on the ground has been really, really special. It’s not just the volume of runs that he’s achieved so far but how he’s been scoring them and how it’s been geared towards trying to move the team forward. Some fantastic contributions so far and at such a young age (23) and I’m sure we’ll see plenty more of it to come," he said.
Asked to comment on India’s lack of the sixth bowler, a result of injury to allrounder Hardik Pandya, Williamson said: "Every team has a slightly different balance that they rely on and with the injury to Hardik it meant that their balance changed a little bit but certainly didn’t change the outcome of what they were doing."