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"It's not over just yet" for this group of New Zealand cricketers, Kane Williamson said* after his side's elimination from the 2023 World Cup with a 70-run defeat to India in the first semi-final on Wednesday night. Their golden generation of players are still yet to win a World Cup together in either white-ball format, but Williamson insisted that they have a future.
New Zealand have one of the oldest squads in the tournament, with only two players aged younger than 28, and the core will be in their mid-to-late-30s come the next 50-over World Cup in 2027. Trent Boult and Tim Southee, the oldest players in their squad at 34, were both expensive as India racked up 397 for 4, finishing with combined figures of 4 for 186 across their 20 overs.
"It's 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," Williamson said. "You can only hope that, as we experienced from some of our leaders as young guys, that we can continue to bring players through - not just in the quality that [the senior players] bring, because we've seen that in spades throughout the last seven weeks, but also in how they're approaching their cricket in order to try and move this team forwards.
"I think we've seen that too - so some good signs, certainly, in this last period of time. It's not over just yet, but that's where the focus is. You come to these tournaments and they can be small margins [which determine] 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."
Williamson conceded that India had effectively batted his side out of the game at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai. "They didn't give us a sniff, really," he said. "I suppose if you bat first and put 400 on the board, it's a tick in the batting column and you go and try and do the job in the second half. It was tough out there: the ball swung a lot initially, so we had to work pretty hard but credit to India.
"We didn't create many meaningful opportunities that could actually change the flow of runs in that first half, and that wasn't through lack of effort. It was just quality on the opposition side and we were sort of searching. They did it well from the start. For us, it's sucking it up and taking it on the chin; taking those experiences to become a better side and move forward."
Williamson said that he would have chosen to bat first if he had won the toss, and said that conditions changed as the game wore on. "It was a used wicket, but a pretty good surface, really," he said. "Conditions change as they go under lights… that's fine: that's what you expected, and they played really well.
"We would have batted as well, but it's the toss of a coin, isn't it? You're still trying to operate regardless of what you do [first]. And they certainly made the most of that opportunity. It's not all on the toss, but they made best use of the conditions they had. We were certainly trying our best [but] it didn't quite go our way today."
New Zealand started the tournament with four consecutive wins but lost five of their final six games, and struggled in the absence of the injured Matt Henry. Williamson himself only played four of their 10 matches, fracturing his thumb after coming back from an ACL rupture, and admitted that injuries had been tough to deal with.
"The injuries weren't helpful - you never want those - but there was still some good cricket there, and we had a couple of close losses… we had our fair share of bits and pieces go on, but that's life. Most teams are dealing with something on any given day, but I think the attitude that the guys kept coming back with [was good]."
19.30 GMT - This story was updated with fresh quotes