New Zealand captain Kane Williamson said his side’s experience of playing in front of partisan crowds would serve them well when they face hosts India in a blockbuster ICC World Cup 2023 semi-final.
A capacity crowd of over 33,000 is expected at Mumbai’s Wankhede Stadium — the home ground of India captain Rohit Sharma — for Wednesday’s clash
New Zealand, losing finalists at the last two World Cups but yet to lift the trophy, knocked India out at the semi-final stage in a rain-affected two-day clash in Manchester four years ago.
Bad weather, however, is unlikely to be an issue in Mumbai and while India had plenty of support at Old Trafford, star batsman Williamson knows that it will be nothing compared to the passionate backing they’ll have on Wednesday.
When a reporter told Kane Williamson during a pre-match press conference on Tuesday that the capacity of the Wankhede is 33,108 and “33 of them will be in blue (India’s colour),” he jokingly replied: “There’ll be more than that.”
Williamson, who knows India well from playing in the lucrative Indian Premier League, added: “We’re expecting a fairly blue crowd that will be supporting their team.
“We remember over the years, a number of different crowds that we’ve had that haven’t always been your own fans.
“We have got a small country that doesn’t always fill out the stadiums but you still appreciate the atmosphere it brings.
“Not many people get that opportunity, cricket in India, playing against India in a World Cup semi-final, is special and something to appreciate and look forward to.”
Williamson is particularly glad to be involved after fearing he might not make it to the World Cup before a freak injury threatened to cut short his participation.
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After spending nearly seven months out with a serious knee injury, he missed New Zealand’s opening wins over champions England and the Netherlands during the ongoing tournament.
He marked his comeback with 78 not out during an eight-wicket victory over Bangladesh in Chennai only to suffer a broken left thumb following a wayward throw while running between the wickets.
The 33-year-old then missed several more games before returning with 95 against Pakistan in Bengaluru.
“An interesting journey for sure,” said Kane Williamson.
“From sort of it not being a chance (of playing at the World Cup) to getting close and it becoming a reality and something to target…Then to get back and then break my thumb. It was quite frustrating and testing.”
But a 10-team round-robin event gave Williamson hope he could still feature later on in the tournament.
“I still felt it hadn’t ruled me out, so I was grateful for that and it’s nice to be sitting here.”
India defeated New Zealand by four wickets in a hard-fought ICC World Cup 2023 group match in Dharamsala last month but Williamson played down the impact of that fixture and the 2019 semi-final ahead of Wednesday’s clash.
“They (India) are a side that’s been playing extremely well, but we also know come finals time, everything sort of starts again.”
Kane Williamson was more forthcoming about New Zealand rising star Rachin Ravindra, with the 23-year-old left-handed opener having already scored three centuries at his debut World Cup.
“He’s burst onto the scene and in a big way,” said Williamson.
“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.”