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McCullum, Crowe on New Zealanders' minds

Wisden India Wisden India 14/03/2016

New Black Caps captain Kane Williamson in action against England in a World T20 warm-up game in Mumbai. © Gareth Copley/Getty Images New Black Caps captain Kane Williamson in action against England in a World T20 warm-up game in Mumbai. As New Zealand prepare for life after Brendon McCullum, they can count themselves fortunate that in Kane Williamson, they have a level-headed successor who, in time to come, will establish himself as a leader for all seasons.

It was inevitable that Williamson, in his first major assignment as skipper, would field questions about McCullum, and the timing of his retirement. McCullum quit international cricket last month at the end of the two-Test series at home against Australia, and will continue to play T20 leagues around the world including season nine of the IPL, which is less than four weeks away.

“I suppose we were certainly fortunate to have Brendon leading us and being in the side for as long as we had him,” Williamson said on Monday (March 14) ahead of the ICC World T20 Super 10 game against India. “In a way, there is no great time for him to walk away with all the good that he is doing. But it’s part and parcel of anything you do that it comes to an end; there's so many other priorities in Brendon’s life and we certainly wish Brendon well. He is very close to this side still and he has got a little bit of cricket left to play in some of the T20 competitions around the world, which is exciting for him, but I know he will be watching us closely.

“He certainly changed the game not just from the outside but I think people around the world will have been influenced in one way or another and there were some valuable lessons there. We won’t have him as a leader or as a player and he was significant in both of those roles. It’s important that we identify the team and the style that we want to play that is best suited to this side to take the team forward.”

New Zealand have also been rocked by the demise of Martin Crowe, the former skipper who lost his battle with cancer 10 days back. Crowe was a massive influence on several members of this New Zealand side, notably former skipper Ross Taylor and Martin Guptill, the opening batsman. “In the match tomorrow, we will be showing our respects by wearing black armbands and I believe after the anthems, there will be a moment where there will be a pause, so that will be a special time of recognition on behalf of the side,” Williamson revealed. “Some blokes in the side, they were very close to Martin and I guess they will deal it in their own way throughout the tournament and throughout the cricket that is coming up. He was a big part of their lives as a cricketer and as a person. It’s just the process that you get through when something significant like this happens.”

New Zealand haven’t lost to India in four Twenty20 Internationals, but Williamson stated the obvious when he said that didn’t count for anything. “Every game of cricket is different. We go into tomorrow and it is pretty much a clean slate, it is the start of a tournament and it’s important for us to be focussed on our plans and to execute them as best as we can,” he said. “We know that India are a very strong side in this competition and we have to be at our best. Whenever you play around the world, you need to adapt to different conditions. Whichever ground you play around India, the conditions can be slightly different so we have to assess those again tomorrow.”

New Zealand have punched above their weight in 50-over World Cups but not so much in World T20s, and even though they have reached the knockouts of the 50-over tournament several times, they haven’t won a major title apart from the ICC KnockOut in Nairobi in 2000. “I’d certainly like to look at it as a glass half-full,” Williamson insisted. “You come to this tournament and you know that T20 cricket on its day can go any way. You have got a dangerous side like most other sides in this competition. Every time you come to a tournament, you want to do as well as you can and every team comes here with the desire to win it. Twenty20 cricket is fickle in its nature and if you go out and express yourself, play with that freedom, anything can happen.”

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