New Zealand skipper Kane Williamson on Saturday said the team has “exciting talents” as they bid for a first T20 World Cup title after losing Devon Conway to freak injury.
Tim Seifert is set to take over the wicketkeeping duties in Sunday’s final against Australia in Dubai.
Conway, who broke his hand after punching his bat in an angry outburst following his dismissal in the semi-final win over England, was a second blow after the Kiwis lost Lockie Ferguson ahead of their opening match in the tournament.
Conway had made 129 runs at the event with an average of just over 32.
Crucially, his ability behind the stumps had allowed the Kiwis to draft in an extra bowler after the group loss to Pakistan.
New Zealand have been the team to beat in recent times after they ended up runners-up in the 2019 50-over World Cup and clinched the inaugural Test championship in June this year.
Both New Zealand and Australia have never won a T20 World Cup and the Kiwis will be playing in their first ever final in the tournament.
The trans-Tasman rivals have a rich history of exciting contests and their title clash brings back memories of the 2015 ODI World Cup final in Melbourne when Australia outplayed New Zealand.
Here are excerpts from Williamson’s press conference:
Just give us a brief summary of preparations ahead of tomorrow’s game.
Yeah, I suppose the playing schedule has been somewhat hectic, and I think we had the last four games in about seven games. There was very much a day off after the semi, and there was a training opportunity yesterday and a training opportunity this evening, as well, which we’ll just head to after this.
So preparation has been good. But it’s just making those quick adjustments to the different opposition, different venues and just the general excitement of winning the semifinal and looking forward to the final.
Obviously you are a team that won the ICC World Test Championship back in June. The prospect tomorrow is of the team winning the ICC Men’s T20 Cricket World Cup; how excited are you and the team by that prospect?
Yeah, it would be some achievement. But you know, where it stands at the moment is there’s a game of cricket to play, and for us, it’s focusing on that and focusing on our cricket and looking to go out there and implement those things that are important to us.
So that is very much where we are at the moment. But you know, these sorts of events are always, you know, focus I suppose on the calendar and there’s a really exciting opportunity to be here now. Looking forward to the match tomorrow.
Obviously it’s been quite a journey for you and the team. Any particular highlights in the lead-up to and during the event that you would like to call out right now?
There have been highlights scattered throughout. But I think ultimately the side has been operating well as a collective and certainly playing for each other. You know, obviously we saw a pretty exciting semifinal. Both semifinals actually were somewhat similar, where you do see moments in games that are match-defining, and you see games that can take quite a sharp turn when you have some key performances.
You know, that’s why I suppose the tournament’s been exciting and always had that anticipation that it would be coming into it, is that you looked across the board and every side had match winners throughout, and you knew that every team could beat anybody on their day.
You know, a really competitive tournament, and for us, it’s been important that we’ve tried to grow and learn throughout, and I think we’ve seen that a little bit, and tomorrow is another opportunity for that.
You guys lost Lockie before one of your key games before Pakistan and now you’ll be without Conway, but in a way it’s sort of a testament to New Zealand’s depth. But in a tournament with people stepping up, what do you make of the depth in this squad?
There is a good mix of sort of youth and experience, and some of these younger players that keep coming through I think on all teams that love to hit the ball out of the park and are really exciting talents, and someone like many Tim Southee coming in very much is that.
Obviously the loss of Devon is a big one. You know, he’s been a big part of all formats for us, and you know, a disappointing and really freak thing to happen. But for us, it’s keeping our focus on the task, and all the players really excited with the opportunity tomorrow to go out, and like I say, try to improve and adjust to what will be new tomorrow, which is a different opposition and a different venue.
Adam Zampa has been a big threat this tournament, and I believe you played him at the Oval (ph) as well. He played quite a few wickets. So in terms of how much of the planning has gone into sort of conquering Zampa?
Yeah, Adam Zampa is a world-class bowler, one of the top in the world and complemented nicely by obviously some of the top seamers in the world. As a side, they have got a lot of match winners, and you know, I think that’s a large part of the strength in their team throughout. They have got world-class cricketers.
And you know, for us, we want to bring our focus to the cricket that we want to play and make sure that that’s the most important thing, and you know, go out there and enjoy the occasion and take it on in our style.
New Zealand has played a lot of cricket against Australia, so playing Australia this year, is that an advantage for you guys that you know Australia so well? And also, can you sum up how much this final means to you and to New Zealand Cricket overall?
I think I heard some of that. But I think when you play each other, I suppose both teams get a reasonable look at one another. So probably not too many advantages to either side except that we do play each other and have done so recently on a number of occasions and had some really good contests. You know, it’s great that obviously we’re playing our neighbor on the other side of the world in a World Cup Final. You know, a really exciting prospect for both teams.
Look, I suppose it’s always a bit of a journey, and as a side, you’re always trying to improve and grow and it’s been great that it’s been the case over a period of time, and we have sort of seen it in a snapshot here at a tournament where the team has managed to make steps forward and improve as a side, and I suppose that’s reflected in where we sit at the moment.
But having said that, you know, that challenge is going to be there and will continue to be there. So we’re looking forward to the occasion tomorrow. But yeah, it’s another match and another opportunity for us as a team to go out and play.
Playing in the previous finals going back to 2015, what would it mean to go one step further? You did it in the test championship but about in white ball cricket, given how close you’ve come before?
Yeah, it’s a great occasion and the team has been tracking well. You know, tomorrow is an opportunity for us to go out and try to build on the performances that we have been doing and look, both teams are looking to go out and put their best foot forward and that’s the nature of competition, really. We’ve seen it throughout this whole competition.
It’s been great competition and one that’s been full of, I suppose, uncertainty in terms of teams having to adjust and compete against one another. Certainly on the day, anybody can turn up and win. It is great to be here. Like I say, a reflection of a lot of hard work but tomorrow is a one-off match and for us, it is trying to make those small adjustments again and keep the focus really close and what it needs to be, and the team is really looking forward to the occasion.
Are you someone who is really big on match-ups, because in the semi-final against England, Mitchell Starc just bowled one over.
Yeah, I mean, there’s definitely a little bit of that, certainly in this format when it’s so condensed that the game follows small margins. There’s a little bit of that and a little bit of gut feel, I guess, in terms of I think often we’ve been at venues and there’s been short sides. You know, sort of different powered players, I suppose coming out in different positions and you try and make those adjustments as you go, and it was just sort of the case that’s what happened in the last game.
In the past few years, New Zealand is one side that’s always managed to reach the knockouts, but still you guys are underdogs. Are you ready to be seen as heavyweights heading into a big tournament?
It sort of doesn’t have a lot to do with us, really. We focus on our cricket, try our best and want to keep improving as a side. You know, the different tags and what not, that’s not really something that we control.
This is a long-standing rivalry. What makes this rivalry so special, and what are you most looking forward to in this rivalry tomorrow?
I suppose the fact that we are sort of neighbors creates a bit of that, in a number of different sports as well. Yeah, I mean, and we play each other on a number of occasions.
Naturally it’s a little bit easier to fly across to each other’s countries and compete, and certainly in recent times with the COVID restrictions that have been going on. That’s been something that’s happened more frequently.
So you know, it is always a great competition, great occasion, when we play each other. So both teams I think are really excited at that prospect tomorrow.
You said a little bit earlier that you wanted to go out there tomorrow and enjoy the occasion and take on in your style. Could you just define your style for us, please?
I mean, probably not in one short answer. But you know, it’s something that we’ve been trying to do and play throughout this competition. For us, it’s looking to go out and make those adjustments and certainly having the courage to do so and play smart cricket and buy into concepts that for us as a team, you know, are kind of what we try and wholeheartedly do.
Tomorrow is another match and another opportunity to do that.
We saw Conway helping Tim Southee with his wicket-keeping drills yesterday. Do you reckon such unity and harmony is the key going forward into such a big game?
I mean, yeah, look, they are both great guys and they both keep, so they were helping each other out which was great. And obviously what happened to Devon was a real shame and he still wants to give as much as he can to the team. He’s at training doing his bit, which is great to see, and it’s brought an aspect to our environment. And he’s certainly right behind Tim and Tim is excited at getting involved tomorrow.
Yeah, every team is a little bit different, and have people in all different personalities and that’s the beauty of what we do but those two are working really well together.
Could you talk us through the reaction after the semifinal? Is there a real sense of unfinished business?
Sort of not really looked at like that. Semifinal was an amazing game of cricket against a very strong side, and we sort of managed to take the game deep, and there are a couple of outstanding contributions at the end that got us across the line in Daryl Mitchell and Jimmy Neesham which is fantastic.
And tomorrow is going to be different again, so we are looking forward to that. You know, the focus for us is our cricket but we know how strong the Australian side it and we are looking forward to that opportunity.
Transcript courtesy: ICC Business Corporation FZ LLC 2020 via Online Media Zone.
With AFP inputs