Kane Williamson is the mastermind, the engine room and the personification of this New Zealand cricket team.
Composed and polite but with underlying steel, Williamson approached his pre-match media conference ahead of the T20 World Cup final in a similar style to that of his batting en-route to Sunday’s match.
“It’s been important that we’ve tried to grow and learn throughout, and I think we’ve seen that a little bit, and tomorrow is another opportunity for that,” Williamson said, playing it cool ahead of one of the biggest days that any cricketer will experience.
And yet big days of cricket have become commonplace for Williamson and this Black Caps side in recent years.
The 2015 World Cup Final, 2016 T20 World Cup semi-final and 2019 World Cup Final have all seen New Zealand involvement. And all saw New Zealand defeats.
But that time flirting with the sport’s major honours has developed a group of players with bags of experience competing under pressure, and this all-time great era of New Zealand cricketers broke their run of defeats with victory in the World Test Championship final earlier this year.
Can New Zealand now add a white-ball trophy that their consistent excellence arguably merits?
The answer to that may well come down to fleeting moments of individual brilliance.
“You know, obviously we saw a pretty exciting semi-final. Both semi-finals actually were somewhat similar, where you do see moments in games that are match-defining, and you see games that can take quite a sharp turn when you have some key performances,” Williamson said.
“That’s why I suppose the tournament’s been exciting and always had that anticipation that it would be coming into it. You looked across the board and every side had match-winners throughout, and you knew that every team could beat anybody on their day.
“Our semi-final was an amazing game of cricket against a very strong side. We sort of managed to take the game deep, and there were a couple of outstanding contributions at the end that got us across the line from Daryl Mitchell and Jimmy Neesham which is fantastic.”
Sunday’s opponents aren’t short of players capable of providing moments of brilliance of their own.
Matthew Wade provided a stark reminder of that with his six-hitting feats to see Australia past Pakistan in their semi-final, while Adam Zampa continued his remarkable tournament, picking up his 12th dismissal to make him the highest wicket-taker of any player to have joined at the Super 12 stage.
“Zampa is a world-class bowler, one of the top in the world and complimented nicely by obviously some of the top seamers in the world,” Williamson acknowledged.
“As a side they have got a lot of match-winners, and you know, I think that’s a large part of the strength in their team throughout. They have got world-class cricketers.”
One world-class cricketer who won’t be on show in Dubai is Devon Conway.
The New Zealand wicketkeeper-batter was ruled out of the final with a fractured hand, a freak injury that he picked up by striking his bat in frustration when dismissed against England.
“Obviously the loss of Devon is a big one,” Williamson said. “You know, he’s been a big part of all formats for us, and you know, it’s a disappointing and really freak thing to happen.
“But for us it’s about keeping our focus on the task, and all the players are really excited with the opportunity tomorrow to go out, and like I say, try to improve and adjust to what will be new, which is a different opposition and a different venue.”
A different opposition and a different venue will yield a different T20 World Cup champion, with neither of these sides yet to lift a men’s ICC 20-over trophy aloft in their history.
(Source and courtesy: https://www.t20worldcup.com/)