Kane Williamson is in an unenviable position. As New Zealand captain, one anyway has big shoes to fill. The standards set by Geoff Howarth, Jeremy Coney, Crowe brothers Martin and Jeff, Stephen Fleming and Daniel Vettori were really high. They were all strong leaders who turned players with limited ability into fighting units.
Williamson need not look too far into history for inspiration. Brendon McCullum, the man who captained him until a month ago, raised the bar for him by leading the team to the World Cup final for the first time, in 2015.
The World Twenty20 will be his first big test, and Williamson said: “Brendon, he was an inspiration as leader and captain and by the way he went about his business on and off the field.”
One of the qualities he would like to inherit from McCullum is selfless cricket: “He certainly led by example but encouraged others to do the same. He created a lot of leaders in the group. We certainly saw that on the field but the focus was very much off it — team culture and guys playing for one another, guys going out and committing to the situation for the benefit of the side. It’s important that it’s continued.”
Across eras, New Zealand sides were rarely filled with flamboyant players and captains were seen as a big part of the team’s success. Their world beaters were restricted to the likes of Richard Hadlee, Martin Crowe, Chris Cairns and McCullum. In fact, there was so much emphasis on strong leadership that wicketkeeper Lee Germon made his debut as captain in the mid 1990s.
The other player Williamson will look to emulate is Martin Crowe. The opening game began with a tribute to the batting great and captain, who recently succumbed to cancer. Crowe’s influence has sustained through generations, and in this team, he has mentored Martin Guptill and Ross Taylor.
The build-up was good for New Zealand, but a global tournament is a different deal.