Andrew Alderson 's Opinion

Andrew Alderson is a sport writer for the Herald on Sunday.

Cricket: Kane able as captain but is it too soon?

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The decision to appoint 21-year-old Kane Williamson as interim New Zealand cricket captain smacks as cruel.

Sure, it's an honour to do the job and (insert the usual platitudes here) but Williamson strikes as one of the best cricketers this country has produced. Why add the responsibility of leading his country as he is still establishing himself in the sport's shorter forms?

No doubt there will be those who roll out "if you're good enough, you're old enough" lines but this decision - understood to have been made by outgoing coach John Wright - seems premature. Worse is the fact it could scar Williamson's development as a batsman as he attempts to cope with the added stress.

Few doubt Williamson's mental toughness and measured temperament. Anyone who witnessed his match-saving century against South Africa in the third test last summer would attest to his capacity to inspire.

He has also been leading English county side Gloucestershire on occasion since returning there this season. However, it is a step up to become the youngest of the 20 players who have led New Zealand in a one-day international, especially with just 12 tests, 24 ODIs and seven T20s behind him.

In Wright's defence the captaincy crop is scarce. Longevity doesn't equal leadership but surely Nathan McCullum (31-years-old, 33 ODIs, 34 T20s) or Kyle Mills (33-years-old, 136 ODIs, 28 T20s) could have filled in until Brendon McCullum's arrival this week?

The team must be longing for the younger McCullum's vim and vigour. He still holds enormous sway in the dressing room. There is hope he can bring life to what has been a stuttering start to 11 months' touring.

Already the excuses have started to get whiffy after the first three losses. It will soon become difficult to accept sentences from Wright et al which include terms like "rebuilding phase", "young team", "no match practice pre-tour", "need to learn quickly", "must adapt to the conditions", "hot weather", "spending time at the wicket", "need to take responsibility" and "we are the underdogs".

Each of those terms has been used since the team arrived. Some of the phrases might be true but this is supposed to be a professional team environment; deal with it. Where is the culture built last year with a semi-final return from the World Cup?

In fairness to Williamson, he can take credit for a couple of the tour's most honest assessments. When asked if he'd enjoyed the captaincy despite the heavy first ODI loss he replied: "It's hard to put the result aside because, obviously, it has an influence. Getting momentum in a game is extremely important as a captain and we're yet to have that in this series."

There is also evidence he possesses a wry sense of humour. Historically that can be useful as New Zealand skipper. When asked how the rain affected the game he quipped: "There probably wasn't enough rain in the circumstances" before reverting back to a more conservative patter.

If New Zealand had stayed off for rain, not enough overs would have been bowled to establish a result under the Duckworth-Lewis system.

Rain alone will not prevent a perfect storm forming around this tour if New Zealand do not wrest back initiative in the next couple of ODIs, the first of which is this morning in Kingston. Questions will be asked at upper levels as to why they are performing so poorly against a side that they have parity with in the one-day and test world rankings.

The lack of nous playing spin and the ineffectual bowling to the likes of Chris Gayle must be addressed. In addition, an absentee crisis beckons with the loss of Ross Taylor (possibly for the tests) and Mark Gillespie (before he even travelled) plus Jesse Ryder's self-imposed boxing stand-down. Daniel Vettori's arrival for the tests will be welcome for the senior balance he brings to the team.

- Herald on Sunday

Andrew Alderson

Andrew Alderson is a sport writer for the Herald on Sunday.

Andrew Alderson writes on sport for the Herald on Sunday. His main focuses are cricket and the Olympic disciplines. His most recent project was reporting on New Zealand sportspeople competing in Europe during the 2013 northern summer. He has attended three cricket World Cups and three Olympics.

Read more by Andrew Alderson

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