Monday, April 15, 2024

Men’s ODI WC: Williamson okay with ‘underdog’ tag ahead of semifinal clash with unbeaten India

Despite reaching the semifinals of the Men’s ODI World Cup nine times in 13 editions, New Zealand will still be considered underdogs by many when they take on India in the semifinal of the 2023 edition at the Wankhede Stadium here on Wednesday.

There are two reasons for that — one is that despite reaching the semifinals on so many occasions and the finals in the last two editions, the Black Caps are yet to win their maiden ICC title, while the second reason is the tremendous form displayed by hosts India, who go into the last-four encounter unbeaten in nine matches.

Despite their tremendous record in the 50-over cricket World Cup — they will be playing the semifinals of the fifth successive edition, New Zealand skipper Kane Williams is quite comfortable with the underdog tag attached to his side.

“Yeah, I mean the underdog thing – from what you guys write I don’t think it has changed too much, but that’s fine you know and India have been exceptional. 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 come finals time anything can happen,” Williamson told the pre-match press conference here on Tuesday.

He agreed that the match could be tricky for India.

“Yeah, I think every game in this tournament is a tricky one. I think as we’ve seen throughout, any team can beat anybody on the day, and whether that’s obviously the quality in both sides, but also the changing conditions and how that has an impact. So yeah, I mean, for us, it’s great to have got to the final stages and then take a fresh approach because it does start again,” he added.

Williamson, who had to endure injuries before and during the World Cup 2023, said it was quite a frustrating and testing time for him.

“Yeah, yeah, an interesting journey for sure, from sort of it 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’s not funny. No, it was quite frustrating and testing but still felt that it hadn’t ruled me out so I still was grateful for that and it’s nice to be fitter than perhaps I was yesterday and be sitting here,” the 33-year-old said.

“So 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 added.

The New Zealand captain, a known figure in India having played in the Indian Premier League (IPL) for many years and led the Sunrisers Hyderabad, praised India for the way they handled the situation after all-rounder Hardik Pandya was ruled out due to an injury.

“Yeah I mean look 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 didn’t change the outcome of what they were doing so they adjusted nicely.”

“You know our team tends to or has done in the past anyway, played with a slightly different balance and I think when you get into tournaments as well it’s guys being nice and familiar with the roles that they have, whether that’s with the ball or with the bat and it all goes quite quickly so you’re trying to make sure you build on those performances as a team.

“And I’ve done it better than anybody so far in this competition. And as a side, I think we’ve done some good stuff too. So yeah, I mean, we’re just looking forward to tomorrow, and it’s going to be a great occasion,” Williamson said.

He was non-committal on whether Kyle Jamieson will play on Wednesday considering the Wankhede pitch offers some assistance to pace bowlers.

“We have to have a look at the surface. Obviously with a squad of 15 and everybody’s fit which is a nice change and yeah look at the pitch and assess from there,” he added.



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