New Zealand captain Kane Williamson doffed his cap to pacer Mohammed Shami and the India team after his side was outplayed in the World Cup semifinal here, saying that the bowling stalwart was one of the best in the world and Rohit Sharma’s side the ”best team”.
India crushed New Zealand by 70 runs to book their place in the final to be played on Sunday, with their opponents in the summit clash to be decided after the Australia-South Africa showdown in Kolkata on Thursday.
New Zealand could only manage 327 in 48.5 overs chasing 398, with Shami producing a magical seven-wicket spell for his unprecedented third five-wicket haul in World Cup matches.
Shami also took his tally to 23 wickets despite missing four matches at the start of the tournament to become the leading wicket-taker in the World Cup.
”He has been incredible. He has only played probably half the games and he might be close to top wicket-taker (position) and coming on first change, behind two outstanding new-ball bowlers,” Williamson told the media after the loss.
”He is, without a doubt, one of the top operators in the world and the way he moves the ball and he keeps bringing the stumps into play. It has been quite phenomenal, really, the amount of wickets he has got in such a small amount of games in this tournament.
”That Indian team in all departments are firing without a doubt and I am sure they will be looking forward to their next opportunity in a few days’ time,” the Kiwi skipper added.
Terming India as the ‘best team in the world’, Willliamson said it is ”tough” on the opposition to see all home team cricketers playing their best cricket.
”They are the best team in the world and they are all playing their best cricket, so that is tough. They have not missed a beat really,” he said.
”To come into a semifinal, you go through your round-robin and you try and get to the stage and it starts again but the way they came out and played, yeah, shows the mindset that they have and the space that they are in,” he added.
With Virat Kohli entering the record books by notching up his 50th ODI century and surpassing Sachin Tendulkar in the process, Williamson said it was tough to find words to describe the modern-day great’s brilliance.
”(I am) trying to find the words to describe it really, and not just that, actually the way he goes about it, it is about winning games for his team and he is getting close and there is a lot of attention and that comes with a lot of his success,” he said.
”He is the best, isn’t he? And he seems to be getting better, which is a worry for opposition all around the world, but you admire it,” he added.
Williamson brushed aside the controversy around the pitch on which the match was played on Wednesday.
Hours before India’s semifinal at the Wankhede, reports had emerged that the Indian cricket team management has sought a ”slow pitch” for the game.
According to a report, a fresh pitch was originally planned for the first semifinal but later an ”used” surface was used to assist the home team’s spinners, leading to pitch alteration.
”It was a used wicket, but a pretty good surface really, as we saw. I mean, they got plenty (of runs) out of it in the first half of the match,” he said.
”And conditions, I guess they change as they go under lights and things, and that is what we have seen throughout this competition. That is fine, that is what you expect and they played really well,” he added.
With the possibility of New Zealand losing some of their best players in Williamson, Trent Boult, Tim Southee and even Tom Latham by the time the next World Cup arrives, the skipper said the Kiwis were moving in the right direction with some new players taking the stage.
”It is an ongoing effort as a side to keep trying to get better and push the boundaries of where we can get to as a team. All those people that you have mentioned are massive parts of that,” he said.
”They are all different in how they operate but they are all leaders in their own right and share a real passion for this team,” he said.
”You can only hope that as we experience from some of our leaders as young guys that we can continue to bring players through, not just in the quality that they bring, because we have seen that in spades throughout the last seven weeks,” he said.
”But also in how they are approaching their cricket in order to try and move this team forward and I think we have seen that too — so some good signs certainly in this last period of time. It is not over just yet but that’s where the focus is,” Williamson added.
Daryl Mitchell smacked seven sixes and nine fours to make 134 off 119 balls to wage a lone battle for New Zealand but his effort was just not enough. Williamson was all praise of his young batting partner with whom the skipper added 181 runs for the third wicket.
”Mitchell, phenomenal player and just the ultimate competitor, he goes out there, he loves the occasion, and he’s been outstanding for us throughout this whole tournament,” he said.
”To go out and do what he did, giving us a chance, albeit a slimmest chance, but will take anything when you’re chasing 400, was a fine effort from a world-class player,” he added.