New Zealand’s march into a second successive Cricket World Cup final has all its players—both men and women, past and present—quite veritably basking in glory. Looked upon by most as ‘underdogs’ before their semi-final tie against India at Old Trafford, with some critics even going to the extent of questioning their place in the top four, Kane Williamson and co. showed how winning a few crucial moments in a fifty-over game can have a significant impact on the eventual outcome.
On the eve of the final of ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 between England and New Zealand at the iconic Lord’s, former White Ferns captain and batting legend Suzie Bates speaks exclusively to cricfit.com correspondent Ritam Basu about many things—her emotions after New Zealand defeated India to reach the final, whether she considers Kane Williamson as New Zealand’s best ever batsman, and what a Cricket World Cup win would mean for the rugby-loving mass of New Zealand.
Q: When New Zealand finished on 239/8 in their 50 overs against India in the semi-final at Old Trafford, did you really expect them to eventually win the match at the halfway stage?
Bates: I truly did. I even texted James Bennett (one of NZC’s media managers) before the 2nd innings started to try and get some tickets for the final. I knew it was no guarantee, but if we took early wickets we would have a real chance and I knew we would fight till the end.
Q: What according to you was the turning point of the game, and where do you think New Zealand won it?
Bates: I don’t think there was one particular turning point; it was a game of many critical moments. Obviously, Kane and Ross’s partnership was the key and then Boult getting Kohli LBW and just hitting the top of the stumps, and then Guptill running out Dhoni were all key moments.
Q: You successfully captained New Zealand"s women’s team from 2011 to 2018. What is your assessment of Williamson’s captaincy in the semi-final?
Bates: Kane has a very calm demeanour on the field and doesn’t get too high or too low. He just stays calm with the ebbs and flows of the game and makes decisions as the game unfolds with very little emotion. He also calls upon his senior players such as Ross Taylor and Trent Boult at key times and while in control of the game, it seems he doesn’t have to dictate too much which allows for collective responsibility.
Q: Did you send any message to the team after the semi-final win?
Bates: I sent Kane a message before the tournament started to wish him and the team good luck and after the semi-final, congratulated him on making the final.
Q: Over the last two to three days, a common consensus among cricket pundits the world over has been that Kane Williamson is New Zealand’s greatest ever batsman. Ian Smith, for example, has said that he is better than what Martin Crowe was in his prime, and that even legends like Bert Sutcliffe and Glenn Turner would have agreed with this. What is your opinion?
Bates: I always find it difficult to compare players of different generations. Martin Crowe was a great batsman during his era and Ross Taylor and Kane Williamson are great New Zealand cricketers today. There have been many great New Zealand players in the past and there will be many more.
Q: The New Zealand openers have had a very mediocre World Cup, as a result of which Williamson and Taylor have had to shoulder majority of the responsibility in the batting department. Is this a major concern going into the final? Having been such a great batter yourself, how do you view this issue?
Bates: We have great depth in our batting order and we have won games in this tournament even without everyone firing, so I think it will be exciting to see what we can potentially achieve when we have more contributions across the board, and what a great time it is for one of the openers to fire!
Q: What will a Cricket World Cup win mean for the people of New Zealand, a country which has traditionally dominated rugby more than cricket?
Bates: We are such a proud sporting nation and we have historically punched above our weight in ICC events. The All Blacks are the powerhouse of world rugby, whereas the Black Caps are up against other powerhouses of world cricket at these events. We love the ‘underdog" tag and if we win tomorrow, I think New Zealand would see it as one of the country’s greatest sporting achievements ever.
Q: You will of course be playing in the different T20 leagues around the world besides fulfilling your national duties. I know playing Test cricket is still one of your biggest dreams. Is there any chance of New Zealand Cricket hosting a women’s Test match any time soon?
Bates: I would absolutely love the chance to play a Test match for my country, so we will have to wait and see what happens.
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