The timing of former New Zealand skipper Brendon McCullum’s biography release could not have been worse.
While New Zealand are struggling on their tour of India, with top batsmen like Ross Taylor in search for form, McCullum has criticized Taylor’s lack of leadership when he was skipper four years back in the book titled ‘Declared’. Taylor, though, let the criticism pass by, saying he hasn’t read the book but it could well turn out to be a dressing room distraction the Kiwis could do without right now.
Current skipper Kane Williamson is new to the job of leading the side and is finding the subcontinent challenges pretty tough to handle. And as New Zealand prepare to face India in the second ODI at Kotla on Thursday, fast bowler Trent Boult accepted Williamson was having a tough time but went on to say no one led the side as well as McCullum, who took New Zealand to the World Cup final last year.
“Kane is a very classy player. He is up there in the ranks for a reason. He is at a very tough time to walk up with the role of captaincy and it is a learning experience for him. In terms of how Brendon led the team both with the bat and his captaincy, I don’t think anyone can do it as well as he did. He set his own tone and we all know what kind of an explosive batsman he was. We stack up a lot of quality players in our side and want them to stand up to end the tour on a positive note,” Boult said.
Batting has let down New Zealand badly on this tour. After their 0-3 Test series rout, they also lost the first ODI at Dharamsala after scoring just 190 following a top-order slump. While their bowlers took 43 wickets in three Tests, the batsmen didn’t do their job.
Seniors Taylor and Martin Guptill were a big letdown while Williamson failed to maintain his impressive form after the first Test in Kanpur, after missing the second in Kolkata due to a stomach bug.
Boult acknowledged the batsmen haven’t pulled their weight. “We are looking to get more runs and if we do that, we can put more scoreboard pressure on a good Indian side. I don’t want to single out anyone but the entire eleven would want to contribute with the bat. As bowlers and fielders, we have taken a lot of pride but in the next few nights, it is a big challenge for the batters to come up.”
The Kiwis haven’t done anything different from their previous trips to India. In 2010, they lost all five ODIs after the top order flopped. Guptill, Taylor and Williamson scored in one game each but were inconsistent. Earlier this year, the Kiwis beat India in the World T20 match at Nagpur but scored only 126 on a turning track.
Taylor has failed to decipher turn in this series while Guptill has been punished for his loose technique. Though Williamson too has found the going tough, he will be expected to bounce back.
Bolt said that with the Indian pacers dealing the blows in the first ODI after Ashwin and Jadeja left them struggling in the Tests, New Zealand had a lot of work to do.
The Kiwis are back at Kotla, where they began their tour with a warm-up game, and a true wicket should raise their hopes.