Kane Williamson hailed New Zealand on Thursday after reaching their second successive Cricket World Cup final with an intense 18-run victory over India.
In a semi-final that went into a reserve day after ran interrupted play, New Zealand finished with 239/8 on board.
They then ripped through India’s to reduce the two-time champions to 24/4 before a hundred partnership between MS Dhoni and Ravindra Jadeja pegged things back in India’s favour.
Williamson and Co, however, held their nerves to pull off a dramatic win.
Here are excerpts from Williamson’s post-match press conference:
Kane, can you just explain how you’re feeling, how the boys are feeling and how that one played out for you in your mind?
KANE WILLIAMSON: Yeah, obviously, a brilliant fighting effort from our guys on what was another tough surface and sort of required that mentality and it was really important that we’re prepared to do that and stay in the game for a long time. We all know the class side that India are.
At the halfway stage, we sort of wanted 240, 250 and we knew we would be competitive if we got that because the surface played the way it did. But then to have to start with the ball that we had was an outstanding way to try and kick things off and try and get into a position of strength and I thought the way the bowlers and the fielders operated throughout on a big field, on a surface which they had to adapt differently again, was a great effort.
Kane, Virat said a little while back that India lost about 45 minutes of bad cricket. Was that also your assessment at 24-4 that probably you had won the game?
KANE WILLIAMSON: I mean, it’s very hard to know exactly but naturally when you find yourself in that position it’s a great starting point from our perspective in terms of perhaps getting ahead of the game because the rebuilding phase becomes a lot more tricky.
So, it was a brilliant start for us with the ball and I guess on the other side of that coin, India wouldn’t have been as happy with that start. There were some good deliveries in there. Sometimes they take the edge and sometimes they don’t. They did for us today and it put us in a good position.
Can you take us through the Martin Guptill run-out scenario with MS Dhoni because that seems to have been the pivotal moment in the match?
KANE WILLIAMSON: We all know the game is a fine line in a number of ways. But that run-out was significant. We’ve seen Dhoni finish games from those similar positions on a number of occasions. It was a tough surface so nothing promised but naturally to dismiss Dhoni in whatever fashion is extremely important, but for a direct hit run-out very, very similar to Jadeja’s I think was a big moment in the game.
Kane, what was going through your mind when you were standing under that catch from Jadeja, did you feel like that was the other game-changing moment?
KANE WILLIAMSON: Just to watch the ball and catch it (laughter), which was nice that it stuck. Yeah, look, we did believe on that surface that we would get opportunities, especially when they were going hard. But the innings that Jadeja played, it was like he was playing on a different wicket, really. He timed the ball beautifully well. He was very clear in how he operated in that partnership with Dhoni, sort of swung things to parity, perhaps even them having the momentum going into the last few overs.
They showed those fighting qualities that we expect from our team and they showed that, with the class side that they are and you do expect from India and they did soak it up even after 20-4 which was a really tough start.
So, a very good game of cricket, spanning over two days, which is unusual, but a great game all the same.
My question is like people are still blaming Dhoni after his innings. Had you been the India captain today, would you have taken Dhoni in your playing 11 now?
KANE WILLIAMSON: He’s not eligible to play for New Zealand (laughter). He’s a world-class player.
Had you been the Indian captain?
KANE WILLIAMSON: Yes, experience at this level and in these occasions is so important and his contribution today and yesterday but throughout this campaign was extremely important and that partnership that he was involved in with Jadeja who came in and hit the ball better than anybody in both teams was very, very valuable and he’s a world-class cricketer and is he looking to change nationalities? We will consider that selection if we have to (laughter).
Your team made a great start winning six games and you lost three games. You beat India the hot favourites in the World Cup?
KANE WILLIAMSON: Yeah, there’s so much more to winning and losing and I think it’s really, really important that as a side you identify parts of matches where you may have not done things that well and parts perhaps that were out of your control that went the way of the opposition and try and look at it for what it is and move away from that game with a bit of clarity and so you are not too perhaps scarred or dented from just what the result was.
And a couple of those games that we lost, I think we were able to look at them like that throughout this whole tournament. The surfaces have been challenging. They have been variable throughout the game and at times have changed within the hundred overs that are available for a match.
So it’s trying to see it for what it is and then move on and be really clear with how you want to operate in the next game. Look, you want to win every game.
You come to this tournament where anybody can beat anybody. We saw a number of results that perhaps were sides ranked lower beat sides ranked higher, but I think everybody knew that anybody can beat anybody. So when that is the nature of it, it seems unlikely to win every game but at the same time you want to try and go out and play the cricket that you want to play for a long period of time and rely on that to perhaps get you to a finals stage which we did.
We came through in the fourth position, which is fine. And then we put out a much-improved performance in the semi-final and it is important for us to try and make small improvements moving into our next match.
Kane, looking ahead to the final. You have lost to Australia and England in the group stage. You must be confident you can beat anyone now after the way you have played against India?
KANE WILLIAMSON: I mean, every game throughout the round-robin was worth a couple of points so they were all important. Obviously a semi-finals worth a few more than two points. But, you know, we’ll go into another match and try and implement similar things that are important to our side, that gives us the best chance of success.
There are so many strong teams in the tournament, another semi-final tomorrow that can go either way, two very good sides. But we turn up on the day like a lot of other matches and anybody can beat anybody. There are a lot of factors involved within that that will play their role, whether it’s a final, or another game perhaps tomorrow, so it’s important that feet are on the ground and we look forward to that challenge.
Q. Kane, a bit of a unique game spanning over two days. How was it last night? Did you guys get much sleep? Was it nerves? Did it really help to sort of regroup after you put up around 211 and 240?
KANE WILLIAMSON: Yeah, I just – I think guys slept pretty well. Sort of we were focusing on what we needed to achieve in those last sort of four overs and at 211-5 we felt we were kind of there or thereabouts on target with what we wanted to try and achieve to be competitive on that surface.
And it wasn’t the sort of wicket that it was 300, it was very much sort of mid-200s and we were aware of that. So it was trying to get to that 240, 250 stage against a formidable bowling attack in that of India.
We knew we had to run our twos well and use those last sort of 23 deliveries as well as we could to get us to that point. And then it was, you know, a brilliant start with the ball.
It was unique that it was over two days but it was the right decision in the end – well, it just kept raining so we didn’t really have a say. But it was great that that day could come in handy. Certainly from our perspective when you qualify in the fourth position and a wash-out doesn’t really help you out too much.
Kane, a second consecutive World Cup final, beating India when everybody was sort of tipping India. What does it mean for cricket’s profile in New Zealand? Rugby is the No. 1 sport?
KANE WILLIAMSON: I don’t think it will change the No. 1 sport. I’m sure people back home are pretty excited and, you know, another great opportunity to play in a World Cup final. It’s something that’s only every four years do you get the opportunity to play in a World Cup, let alone make a final. So, a special moment.
But at the same time, we sort of just want to reflect on the good things we did in this match and the things we want to improve on and try and treat it in a similar respect so we go into that game and we need to go in and play our best cricket and what happens sort of in and around that is out of our control.
You chose Boult to bowl the 46th and the 48th, was there a thought “Should I delay him for the 49th and 50th?” When you take under the catches, does any thought pop in your head at all, or attention? What is the feeling? What happened, what were you thinking, if at all?
KANE WILLIAMSON: Yeah, I suppose you are feeling engaged in the game, so you are kind of watching the ball and you are sort of trying to move the field and that is the nature of the role as captain.
But, yeah, look someone like Trent, obviously a world-class bowler for us. We were trying to use his death overs as well as we could to either (a) push the run rate up to a point that it would be more challenging and perhaps heading to a longer side in those later overs, or (b) – I might have got those the wrong way around – trying to dismiss the guys batting at the time, Jadeja and Dhoni, who we know can hit the ball a long way and can win games from that position.
So trying to use your resources slightly earlier was a good move. Obviously proved to be an important part of the match. But, you know, you never know who is going to pick up the wickets. In terms of the catches, it was trying to watch the ball and catch it.
What were you thinking?
KANE WILLIAMSON: I can’t remember, sorry. Someone goes “catch it” and it’s sort of... it’s above me so it must be mine (smiling).
Kane, congratulations. Since the last match against England, your captaincy has copped a lot of criticism. What do you think a place in the Grand Final does for the tone of those comments? And what were conversations like with you and other players around the pitch especially in those vital moments?
KANE WILLIAMSON: Yeah, I sort of don’t really know much about the first part of that question (smiling). I guess as a captain of our side we try and operate in the best way we can to give ourselves the best chance of success and it’s sort of hard to control what other people say, but we are enjoying our cricket and we are looking forward to the next game which is the final, which is a really exciting opportunity and the second part of your question, sorry, what was?
What were conversations like in the drinks breaks with your players in those, especially in the critical moments?
KANE WILLIAMSON: It was – whilst we had a very good start with the ball, we knew that India were looking to consolidate and so if we were able to keep looking to take wickets, but also try and create pressure where the run rate was going to keep growing we thought there were two bites at it and we know that the class of the Indian side and the depth that they have in their team and they showed that again today, that it was a really great thing that we kept showing those fighting characteristics that are important to us as a team and took the game deep and it was a fine line, but nice to end up on the right side.
With regards to the middle overs, how important was that Mitchell Santner spell? Do you think that was a key moment of the game where the run rate went up to 8, 9 and the pressure went on with, with India, the wickets being five down, it was difficult for them to chase down?
KANE WILLIAMSON: It was an outstanding spell from Santner on a surface that, you know, no doubt was offering to the slower bowlers – and we saw that in our innings as well the amount of spin that the Indian spinners got and he is a world-class bowler, so we expected he would operate well.
But to put up a performance like that was very special in a period of play that was very, very important. There were so many contributions throughout the match – bat, ball, in the field – that we saw that were vital to get across the line today.
Kane, did Auckland 2015 ever flash in your mind? How do you compare the emotions of these two semifinals?
KANE WILLIAMSON: It didn’t actually. But they were two very different games. I suppose being in the field together is a slightly different feeling versus watching the majority of the second half from my perspective. But yeah, there is that real togetherness team aspect around trying to, I suppose, defend a total.
So two very different games, but I suppose you had to respect them in the same way that they were going to be different and we had to play in a much different fashion. But a lot of that is down to conditions.
At the end of the day, it’s been an enjoyable ride, but important that, like I mentioned, the feet are on the ground and we look forward to our next challenge.
I have been outside with a whole lot of Indian fans and they are really angry. How do you feel being responsible for plunging a billion people into a state of mourning and anger?
KANE WILLIAMSON: Yeah, I hope they’re not too angry. Obviously, the passion for the game in India is unrivalled and we are all fortunate to play this sport and have a country like India be right behind it and the support that they have for their home team.
But hopefully we can adopt 1.5 billion supporters and they’ll be supporting us, what do you reckon? Yeah, look, India are a world-class side and the game of cricket is fickle in its nature especially when it comes to the white ball and Twenty20 and One-Day cricket. Whether it’s a semi-final or final nothing really promises. They have got so many world-class players and the depth they have in their team mean they are rightly so ranked No. 1 or No. 2. But we’ve mentioned on a number of occasions on any given day anybody can beat anybody and the game is a very fine line and today perhaps some of those small margins went our way and it was great that we could get across the line and beat a very strong side.
But, you know, at the same time, there’s obviously a huge amount of respect for India as a cricket side and I certainly hope that their fans are very much behind them and respect that the game of cricket can be a tough one on a number of occasions.
Kane, given how Martin Guptill struggled with the bat yesterday, how pleasing was it personally to see him come back today and make such a huge contribution with that run-out?
KANE WILLIAMSON: Yeah, that was, you know – I mean he’s probably the only man on the pitch that could perhaps create that run-out. So contributions can come in so many different ways and I think we’ve seen on the fielding charts he’s been right up there and for him to do that and pull off what was a significant turning point in the match was special and then obviously a great thing for our team.
What is the situation with Henry Nicholls? I don’t think he came out to field at all. If he would have had to bat today, would he have been able to?
KANE WILLIAMSON: It was a sort of a tight hamstring, I don’t know the fine details. But we do have a few days now, where hopefully it can recover nice and quickly. Didn’t have to bat today, didn’t have to consider those options. But it was precautionary as well as there is something there, so hopefully it is a quick recovery.