Williamson hopes to continue McCullum’s team culture

New Zealand captain says his players will focus on their game and play smart cricket against the opposition.

New Zealand captain Kane Williamson interacts with media during the press conference in Mumbai on Tuesday.   -  Vivek Bendre

Barely a month ago, Kane Williamson was expected to participate in the World T20 as New Zealand’s batting mainstay under the leadership of Brendon McCullum. Then came the latter’s abrupt decision to retire from international cricket last month and Williamson was elevated into captaincy, T20 for now, before the Kiwis arrived in India for the World T20.

Williamson, one of the most stylish young batsmen in world cricket, is no stranger to leading New Zealand. But it would be a huge task for him to step into McCullum’s shoes, that too at the marquee event. Naturally, Williamson hoped to draw a lot of positives from his predecessor’s stint.

“Brendon certainly led by example but he encouraged others to do the same. He created a lot of leaders in the group and he’s the first to say that although it was his vision and (coach) Mike Hesson’s vision, the way the guys brought into it was equally important,” Williamson said at the team’s first media interaction here on Tuesday.

“We certainly saw that on the field but the focus was very much off the field — team culture and guys playing for one another, selfless cricketers, guys going out and committing to the situation for the benefit of the side. I think it’s important that it’s continued.

“There is naturally a transition when you lose a player, someone of the calibre of Brendon. It’s part of the game, not only as a batsman but as a leader. But it’s the nature of what we do, or what anyone does. You have to finish at some time and you look to move on and build on from what we have done so well. That’s the focus for us.”

Besides his leadership abilities, McCullum also leaves a huge hole in New Zealand’s batting line-up, especially in the shortest version. After all, McCullum has been topping the run charts for a majority of the last decade since T20 internationals were introduced in 2005.

As a result, Williamson will also have to ensure his batting doesn’t slip up under the captaincy burden. Being in silken touch with the willow, he isn’t too concerned about his batting form. “Personally, I try and keep my game as simple as I can and make subtle adjustments according to different sides and surfaces that you play on. Trying to keep it simple and being relaxed in the middle is I think a very important thing,” Williamson said.

“I don’t think you get runs everyday, that’s the game and something you certainly accept. You go out and try to improve day in and day out and that’s something I try and do.”

In his quest to stamp his authority, Williamson couldn’t have asked for a stiffer challenge than the tournament-opener against India. And the soft-spoken Kiwi gave India its due.

“India are the favourites and considering the conditions, they will be tough to beat. There are lot of players who can win matches,” he said. “From our perspective, we want to focus on our game, how we play that and how best we can play on the day. We have to be smart against the opposition side.”