Kane Williamson lauds India as Black Caps era approaches its end
The New Zealand bowlers were put to the sword in the first innings, with India racking up 397/4 thanks in large part to centuries from Virat Kohli and Shreyas Iyer.
And then the Kiwi resistance, led by centurion Daryl Mitchell, was undone by India’s strong bowling attack, spearheaded by Mohammed Shami.
“They're the best team in the world and they're all playing their best cricket,” Williamson said of India. “The way they've played throughout this tournament has been incredible.
“They haven't missed a beat really and to come into a semi-final, 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 shows the mindset that they have and the space that they're in.
“I've got no doubt they'll go into that next match full of confidence.”
For a brief period it looked like New Zealand might just pull off something remarkable, with Williamson putting on 181 for the third wicket with Mitchell, who scored his second ton of the tournament against India, finishing with 134 from 119 balls.
“Mitchell is a phenomenal player and just the ultimate competitor,” Williamson said. “He goes out there, he loves the occasion, and he's been outstanding for us throughout this whole tournament.
“To go out and do what he did today, giving us a chance, albeit a slimmest chance, was a fine effort from a world-class player.”
The 33-year-old Williamson and 32-year-old Mitchell are among a crop of Kiwi players who could have featured in their last Cricket World Cup, with Trent Boult, Tim Southee and Tom Latham among those approaching the back-end of their careers.
The Black Caps have appeared in all six T20 and ODI World Cup semi-finals since 2015, reaching three finals without claiming a title.
But Williamson says it’s not quite the moment to call time on his team’s era just yet.
“I think it's been, I suppose, 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've mentioned are massive parts of that. They're all different in how they operate but they're all leaders in their own right and share a real passion for this team.
“We're all grateful to have those players and you can only hope that we can continue to bring players through.
“It's not over just yet. You come to these tournaments and they can be small margins whether you get further or not, but ultimately it's about growing as a group and becoming a better cricket team.
“I think the seven weeks were really valuable for us as a side. We wanted to go further naturally, but we'll reflect on it and take a lot of good out of it.”
New Zealand’s experienced squad will look to regroup and launch another major-tournament challenge in next year’s ICC Men’s T20 World Cup.
But for India the prospect of international glory is far closer, with Rohit Sharma’s side marching on to a final against either South Africa or Australia in Ahmedabad on Sunday.
“India are playing seriously good cricket, they're a class side at the top of their game,” Williamson said, looking back on a game that India controlled with both bat and ball.
“They certainly put us under a lot of pressure in that first half. That was tough. There wasn't much in the surface for us, and we were trying to defend large parts of that. So, credit to the way that they played.
“And also, in that second half, I’m proud of the fight really. It was tough, there was a lot of movement with the new ball and those sorts of things – so to give ourselves a bit of a sniff was a fair effort
“We can be quite proud of the effort that's gone into getting to where we are and it just didn't quite happen for us today.”