Kane Williamson announced his decision to step down as captain of New Zealand in Test cricket last week. Tim Southee took over as the new captain in the longest format of the game, with Kane Williamson expected to lead the Blackcaps in both ODIs and T20Is until the next World Cup tournaments in both formats.
Considered a part of the Fab Four, Kane Williamson is the last of the group to step down from captaincy in Test cricket, marking the end of an era that was dominated by the four batsmen. The New Zealand great leaves behind a lasting legacy in red-ball cricket – by winning the inaugural World Test Championship for the Blackcaps and by making New Zealand the favourite underdogs for neutral fans everywhere.
Captaincy in Numbers
Kane Williamson took over the reins of New Zealand in 2016 from the now-English coach Brendon McCullum, leading the side in 40 Tests over the six years. The 32-year-old is the most successful Test captain in the tiny nation’s history, leading his side to victory in 22 of the 40 Tests and losing just 10.
Known for his composure on the field, Kane Williamson’s approach to the game drew comparisons with captain cool Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s approach. He was successful in converting the team into more than the sum of its parts, with the Blackcaps becoming famous as the ‘good guys’ of world cricket during his tenure.
New Zealand’s greatest moment in their cricketing journey came last year when they defeated India to clinch the inaugural World Test Championship title at Lord’s, with Kane Williamson shining with the bat to score an unbeaten half-century and rallying his troops with the ball to contain Indian batsmen.
Kane Williamson’s batting prowess peaked during his time as the captain, with his average going up to 57.43 in red-ball cricket from 49.23 earlier in his career. He scored 11 centuries and 14 half-centuries in 65 innings as captain, moving past both Stephen Fleming and Brendon McCullum in the process – with only Steve Smith boasting of a better record among the current generation of players.
Even when the aggressive brand of cricket championed by the likes of Virat Kohli and Steve Smith became the standard in Test cricket, Kane Williamson stuck to his approach of building partnerships. Patience and composure have paid rich dividends for the 32-year-old, with New Zealand’s win-to-loss ratio of 2.2 taking New Zealand to the top of the Test rankings last year.
Decision To Stand Down
Kane Williamson’s decision to step down as Test captain might be primarily motivated by his desire to prolong his career in all three formats of the game. Unlike ODIs and T20s, leading a Test side involves a lot of focus over five days of the game, exerting a mental toll on the captains involved. With the burden of captaincy removed, he can now focus on regaining his form with the bat, which is under a slump considering the star’s potential.
New Zealand also are going through troubles in the longest format of the game – with six of their eight losses in the last six years coming in the current World Test Championship cycle. With just two wins in the last eight Tests, New Zealand urgently need a course correction. It might be that both the board and Kane Williamson mutually decided on the need for a change in leadership.
In an emotional note announcing his retirement, Kane Williamson thanked the management and players for the support shown during his tenure. Unlike the circumstances under which Joe Root and Virat Kohli had to step down from the captaincy, Kane Williamson’s departure was well handled, with the decision coming from the captain himself and not the board.
What’s Next for Kane Williamson and New Zealand?
Tim Southee has been appointed as New Zealand’s Test skipper by the New Zealand Cricket board. The fast bowler has experience leading the side over the past few years in T20Is as a stand-in captain, and with Pat Cummins leading the Australian Test side, cricket might have entered a new era where bowlers are considered on equal terms with batsmen for captaincy roles.
Kane Williamson will continue to lead the Blackcaps in both ODIs and T20s, at least until the next ODI World Cup in India. However, both Kane Williamson and Tim Southee will miss the upcoming ODI series in India, with the New Zealand board prioritising workload management of the players. For Kane Williamson, the reduced burden of captaincy will allow him to focus on his batting prowess once more. Virat Kohli regained his form once he stood down as India’s captain, and it is expected that Kane Williamson can follow him in this regard. The shorter formats of the game will become the 32-year-old’s focus from now on – with a potential ODI World Cup win in 2023 in sight.
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