DURHAM: Under Brendon McCullum and Kane Williamson, New Zealand have had two memorable World Cup campaigns. In 2015, a buoyant McCullum led from the front as New Zealand reached the final, and now four years later, under Williamson, they look set to secure a semi-final spot in the World Cup 2019.
Though New Zealand have only moved upwards under both captains, McCullum and Williamson are poles apart – in person and leadership. Like his batting – charismatic and hard-hitting – even McCullum’s captaincy was fearless. He was attacking and creative and won plaudits for accepting the rough with the smooth, refusing to make excuses on bad days.
Williamson, on the other hand, in nothing like his predecessor. Like his batting, Williamson’s captaincy is calm, sedate and calculated, and although his captaincy record is yet to match the laurels of McCullum, that he is one of the finest captains in the world currently can and shall not be undermined.
When two leaders are as contrasting as McCullum and Williamson, there is bound to be a comparison. Williamson has been pointed fingers as for not being as dynamic or aggressive or lion-hearted as the man he replaced. The debate has escalated to an extent that the British press has even labelled Williamson’s captaincy timid and cautious.
Ross Taylor, who has played under both captains, shed light on the contrasting leadership styles of the two players, pointing out that while McCullum was an extreme, Williamson has his own style.
“I think Kane is a fantastic world-class batsman and a world-class captain, you know. You don’t have to look far, the last couple of matches. There’s some pundits out there saying he was a great captain. We lose a couple of games and he is a bad captain. He is still a great captain, leads from the front and the team respect him and I love playing under him,” Taylor said.
“I’d love as a team to take a little bit of pressure off him and score some runs and not let him do everything. But, you know, in terms of Kane, he is a great captain to play under and looking forward to him hopefully continuing that good toss record that he’s had over the last little while as well.
“Brendon would want to set very attacking fields throughout the whole match and Kane would pick his moments when he wants to attack. I mean, you can talk to numerous people, depending on who you want to talk to, which is the right way. At the end of the day, if you win cricket, it doesn’t matter how attacking, or, if you are not attacking, winning the game of the cricket at the end of the day, is our main objective however you do that.”
As modest as Taylor was during his statement of taking pressure off his captain, he hasn’t done badly. Having finished 2018 with 792 runs from 14 matches at a stunning average of 91.28, Taylor has scored two half-century and a couple of more starts in this World Cup. With New Zealand heavily dependent on him and Williamson to score runs, now may not be a bad time for Taylor to score daddy hundred. England, of all sides, will remember the 181 Taylor scored, when virtually on one leg, he won the game for New Zealand in Dunedin.
“I have felt good throughout the whole tournament, a couple of strangles down the leg-side and a couple of good balls, that is the nature of the beast and cricket. You know you are not too far away from hopefully getting a few out the middle and getting that confidence up and spending a bit of time,” Taylor said.
But sometimes in these situations you just have to do what’s best for a team and contribute in any sort of way, whether it is with the bat, or whether it’s rallying around the youngsters and trying to pump their tyres up in these tournament situations.”
Then again, what better time to do it than Wednesday, against the same opponent and help New Zealand through to the semi-finals. The scenario for New Zealand’s game against England is simple. Whoever wins, books a place in the final four, although New Zealand have the cushion of a healthy run rate. Last week, back-to-back losses to Pakistan and Australia prolonged their wait to enter the semis, but Taylor is banking on New Zealand’s experience of playing England to give the side the right result.
“I think there was some close matches up the front there as well, and we were happy to get the right result,” Taylor said.
“I think the game was a little bit closer against Australia than it probably looked. I think we had them under pressure at the start there and we probably, you know, it was quite a tough wicket at Lord’s. But yes, we definitely haven’t got the momentum that we would have liked in the last couple of games, but tomorrow is a different story against different opposition.
“We know we have played England a lot over the last little while and looking forward to hopefully different conditions than the last two matches that we have had to play on.”