Mumbai, Nov 14: Kane Williamson is all set to lead New Zealand in the semi-finals against India at the Wankhede Stadium on Wednesday but the journey has been challenging for the Kiwi skipper.
On March 31, Williamson injured his knee attempting to save a six while playing for Gujarat Titans in the Indian Premier League (IPL). The Kiwi star was ruled out of the tournament and the severity of his injury put serious question marks over his participation in the ongoing ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup 2023.
Williamson flew back home and had to undergo surgery to repair his ruptured ACL. It wasn’t until August that he started taking throwdowns and what was a distant dream of playing the World Cup looked a remote possibility.
Fast forward to September 11, Williamson was named captain of New Zealand when the squad was announced. He was part of the warm-up matches and after missing the opener against England, returned with a half-century against Bangladesh, an ICC report on Tuesday said.
It was almost the perfect comeback until Williamson was struck on his thumb by a throw that missed the stumps at the non-striker’s end. Scans revealed a fractured thumb and the 33-year-old would only be available towards the backend of the league stage.
On the eve of the semi-final where he will lead New Zealand out against India, Williamson reflected on what has been a ‘frustrating’ journey over the last few months.
“An interesting journey for sure,” Williamson said. “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 was quite frustrating and testing but still feeling 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,” he 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,” Williamson said.
In Williamson’s extended absence during the tournament, young talent Rachin Ravindra emerged as a standout performer. The 23-year-old made most of the opportunities given to him and at the end of the group stage, finds himself third in the highest run-getters list with 565 runs in nine matches, which include three centuries.
His total tally of runs in the tournament is the most made by a player younger than 25 years, a record that had belonged to Sachin Tendulkar since 1996.
Rachin’s exploits with the bat have left everyone impressed, including his skipper Williamson.
“Quite incredible really, burst onto the scene and in a big way in a role that perhaps wasn’t sort of natural maybe within our environment,” Williamson noted.
“He did a bit of it domestically, but to do what he’s done so far in this tournament with his feet firmly on the ground has been really, really special, and as we’ve all seen, he’s an incredibly special and talented player and a fantastic individual in the environment,” Williamson said.
“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 and I’m sure we’ll see plenty more of it to come,” he said.
Wankhede will turn into a sea of blue on Wednesday in support of hosts India, who won all nine of their group-stage games and riding high on confidence. Quizzed about the team’s nerves ahead of such a big occasion with the home support firmly behind India, Williamson said the Kiwis are ready to embrace the unique challenge.
“I’m sure that there’ll be a good one tomorrow and yeah guys have all different levels of experience with those things but to me, it’s about embracing it,” Williamson said..
“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,” he concluded. (UNI)