As the 2023 World Cup semifinal looms, New Zealand finds itself in a familiar position, facing India in a crucial match at the Wankhede Stadium, hoping to replicate the success of the 2019 edition. Back then, in a riveting encounter that spanned two days due to rain delays, New Zealand emerged victorious, defending 239/8 at Old Trafford. Lockie Ferguson, a key figure in that triumph, remains mindful of the memorable game but is quick to acknowledge the evolution both teams have undergone since.
In a pre-match press conference on Monday, Ferguson expressed the significance of the 2019 semifinal, describing it as a "spectacular game." Reflecting on his role in that match, where he returned figures of 1/43, Ferguson emphasized the uniqueness of playing a one-day game stretched over two days. However, he was pragmatic about the passage of time, emphasizing the considerable changes both teams have experienced in the four years that have elapsed.
"Four years have gone past, we've played a lot of cricket in between, and both teams I'm sure are raring to go come Wednesday," Ferguson remarked, highlighting the transformation of squads through the World Cup cycle.
Despite the temporal gap, New Zealand's current crop continues the nation's remarkable record in men's white-ball competitions. This marks their fifth consecutive World Cup semifinal appearance, with previous instances including being losing finalists in 2019 and 2015 and semifinalists in 2011 and 2007. Additionally, they've made three consecutive semifinal appearances in the ICC Men’s T20 World Cups (2016, 2021, and 2022).
Ferguson attributed New Zealand's consistent performance to a level mindset and a commitment to their processes. "When we start the competition, much like every other team, we're here to win it, but of course, we know there's a process," he stated. The Kiwi bowler emphasized the team's grounded approach, staying focused on the task at hand, and expressed enthusiasm for big tournaments, particularly in India, with its vibrant fanbase and support.
Despite injuries affecting their campaign, with skipper Kane Williamson and Matt Henry sidelined at different points, New Zealand remains optimistic. Facing the semifinal without Henry, Ferguson exuded confidence, jokingly referring to the team as "a handsome bunch" even without the injured player. Tim Southee, stepping into the void, brings valuable experience, having captained the test team and featured prominently in various formats, including extensive experience in Indian conditions.
The journey through the 2023 World Cup hasn't been seamless for New Zealand, marked by injuries and fluctuating form. After a promising start with four consecutive victories, they faced a setback with four successive defeats before sealing their semifinal spot with a convincing win against Sri Lanka in their ninth match. Now, as they brace for the semifinal clash against India, New Zealand aims to regroup and put their best foot forward, drawing inspiration not just from past glories but from the resilience forged through the challenges of the current tournament.