“I hope they’re not too angry,” Kane Williamson was his quintessential unassuming self while enquiring about the heartbroken Indian fans, and wished to “adopt” the Men in Blue’s 1.5 billion supporters to back New Zealand in the World Cup final.
A scribe told him that he met angry Indian fans outside the stadium after their semi-final loss and his reply, filled with warmth, could win hearts instantly.
“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,” he said.
Williamson’s reply could be termed as safe and diplomatic but it had the conviction to melt hearts. He is the leader of a team of good boys, the only cricket team that has earned universal love in the fraternity.
But on Sunday, July 14, he will expect that Indian supporters are right behind the ‘Black Caps’ in their bid to win a maiden world title. “Hopefully, we can adopt 1.5 billion supporters and they’ll be supporting us, what do you reckon,” he politely enquired.
Winners have the bragging rights but there was no such thing for Williamson who sympathised with India for paying the price for a fickle format despite consistent show.
“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 semifinal or final nothing really promises.
“India has 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.”
What India brings to world cricket is not lost on Williamson, who captains the popular IPL franchise Sunrisers Hyderabad.
“You know, 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.”
He lives under no illusion that the country’s cricket profile will change after another successful World Cup campaign. Williamson is practical that rugby remains the top Kiwi sport by light years and will remain so.
“I don’t think it will change the No. 1 sport,” Williamson replied when asked if another World Cup final appearance will make cricket topple rugby. However, there will be some amount of excitement, he said.
“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. A special moment.”
New Zealand had lost three successive games coming into the semi-finals. Questioned about his take on the criticism with regards to his captaincy, there wasn’t even a hint of irritation.
“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,” the tone was mild but the answer was firm.
And then he brings the larger perspective into account.
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 parts perhaps that were out of your control that went the way of the opposition,” he stated.
He felt that thinking beyond results gives him the clarity that helps in moving forward quickly, without brooding over previous disappointments.
“… 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,” he said.
An Indian electronic media journalist wanted a definitive answer on what he felt about Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s future. Most would just state point-blank that it’s none of their business. Williamson exactly did that but with a touch of humour.
“He’s not eligible to play for New Zealand,” he said and everybody laughed. Then he gave the agitated reporter what he wanted but not without a killer ending.
“Yes, experience at this level and in these occasions is so important and his (Dhoni) contribution today and yesterday but throughout this campaign was extremely important. 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. He’s a world-class cricketer but is he looking to change nationalities? We will consider that selection if we have to,” he said softly.
There were peels of laughter everywhere and it ended on a happy note.