Cricket: Apprentice Kane Williamson handed reins

By David Leggat

Kane Williamson's batting has improved as captain. Photo / AP
Kane Williamson's batting has improved as captain. Photo / AP

As announcements go, it was far from a "didn't see that one coming" moment.

Kane Williamson has been New Zealand's captain-in-waiting for a couple of years and yesterday's confirmation that he will take over from Brendon McCullum was a rubber stamping of long-held expectations.

He wasn't at the press conference in Auckland yesterday, as he's on Indian Premier League duty with the Sunrisers Hyderabad franchise, although he hasn't been required to play yet.

Williamson was probably happy with that degree of separation. He doesn't exactly relish the media responsibilities that go with the job, certainly not in the way McCullum handled them.

Sitting in front of a phalanx of cameras and microphones isn't his idea of fun, but having taken on what New Zealand Cricket chief executive David White called "a very senior role in New Zealand sport", that's not going to ease off any time soon.

The naming of McCullum's replacement has taken time - time for boxes to be ticked and Williamson to feel ready to take on the task of running all three forms of the game.

The fact he is one of the few players automatically selected for test, ODI and T20 cricket helped. But he's also the country's best cricketer, has a smart cricket brain and won praise for his handling of the team at the world T20 in India last March, notably for nimble strategic thinking, en route to the semifinals.

"The way we saw him operate at the world T20, he was very engaging, involved a lot of senior players to help and he's very thoughtful in the way he goes about it," New Zealand coach Mike Hesson said. "He understands enough conditions around the world to be a good operator."

History shows his performance certainly hasn't dropped and at times it's improved.
Mike Hesson, New Zealand cricket coach

Williamson needs to be his own man, and he will be. Hesson admitted aspects of McCullum's assertive style of captaincy have rubbed off - "certainly he's been more aggressive at key times than he initially was" - and there are no fears that the burden of overall leadership will hinder his remarkable batting gifts.

"History shows his performance certainly hasn't dropped and at times it's improved," Hesson said, pointing to Williamson's ability to "go into his bubble" when he bats. New Zealand need that to remain intact.

There were other options but none remotely close to Williamson in terms of suitability on several counts.

And so the apprentice now has the reins.

"I believe this team can achieve a lot," Williamson said in an NZ Cricket statement.

Now he has his chance to show it.

- NZ Herald

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