20 May 2020

Bidwell: Is Kane the right man to lead the Black Caps forward?

1:51 pm on 20 May 2020

Opinion - The Covid-19 pandemic rather overshadowed an interesting cricket debate.

Kane Williamson walks out onto the MCG.

Black Caps captain Kane Williamson Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Our Black Caps were due to finish an up and down season with three one-day international fixtures away against Australia.

The first was played - and lost badly - before events intervened and the team werewhisked back to New Zealand.

That meant the summer was never quite put into its correct context and a robust discussion had about the team's first trip across the Tasman.

These weren't the first Black Caps to ever be annihilated in a test series in Australia, but few sides had ever gone across with greater hopes of success. In those circumstances, the 3-0 defeat amounted to a humiliation.

The preparation proved inadequate, selections and tactics were poor and, worst of all, the team played without the heart that had characterised so much of their cricket in recent years.

By the end of the tour, captain Kane Williamson was injured, senior bowler Tim Southee dropped and a Canterbury cabal installed in their place.

Coach Gary Stead made Tom Latham captain, instead of Southee, selected the ineffective Matt Henry to open the bowling and brought in legspinner Todd Astle.

To add to the confusion, Astle promptly retired from test and first-class cricket.

A coup appeared as if it had taken place, with Stead - the former Canterbury captain and coach - casting himself in the role of man in charge.

Interesting, then, to hear former New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum and swing bowler turned commentator Simon Doull sum the situation up recently.

Speaking to Sky Sports UK, the pair only want one bloke running the Black Caps.

"Kane Williamson needs to be given more control if I'm being honest,'' McCullum said.

"He knows what needs to be done to drive that team forward but he needs to work out whether he wants to be the one who's going to take this team to the next level and, if he wants to do that, then they should give him total control to do so.''

Doull agreed, before making a very interesting observation.

"Do some of the deputies have too much influence on what Kane decides as well?,'' asked Doull.

"And I know you need understudies, you need deputies, but there's that little Northern Districts clique that goes on in that team at times [and] I wonder if they have too much influence on what Kane does. I'd like him to really stand up and be that leader.''

If we're talking Northern Districts (ND) cliques, then we're talking Southee, Trent Boult, BJ Watling and Mitchell Santner.

Doull's an old ND man himself so if he's wondering aloud about whether his successors hold too much sway over Williamson, then it's probably coming from a position of authority and knowledge.

Black Caps coach Gary Stead.

Black Caps coach Gary Stead. Photo: Photosport

Cricket, be it at little kids' level or on the international stage, has long favoured a model where a team's best batsman is also its skipper.

Never mind if the guy's a dullard or has no leadership ability whatsoever.

Williamson is undoubtedly New Zealand's finest batsman, but has developed into a reasonable leader too.

At last year's Cricket World Cup, for instance, he very nearly took a pretty ordinary team all the way to the title.

Then, when England were declared tournament winners after a tie against the Black Caps in the final, Williamson conducted himself with uncommon dignity.

His captaincy wasn't good on the ill-fated test tour to Australia but, judging by the comments made by McCullum and Doull, Williamson might not have received great support from the men around him.

He certainly returned from that trip a weary figure and reports emerged that he might not be sold on retaining the role.

Well, we've got time to debate a bit of that now.

To talk about if Williamson is indeed the man to lead the Black Caps forward and how New Zealand Cricket might support him in that endeavour.

We're not so blessed with talent that we can afford to burn our best players out or disregard their opinions.

Our national team needs to be a nurturing and cohesive one, if they're going to win matches.

Global travel restrictions being what they are, Australia might be our main international opponent in the short to medium term and it would be nice to think NZC might give the captain and team a better chance to succeed next time around.

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