WELLINGTON (AFP) – New Zealand will be looking to put their Test humiliation in Australia behind them when they switch formats today to start a five-match Twenty20 (T20) series against India with the spotlight on Kane Williamson’s leadership.
The series launches a six-week tour by Virat Kohli’s men with three one-day internationals (ODI) and two Tests to follow.
However, in a Twenty20 World Cup year it is formed in cricket’s shortest format that will command considerable attention.
India have just completed a successful three-match ODI series against Australia and Kohli’s immediate concern on arriving in New Zealand was the tight schedule his side faced.
“It’s definitely getting closer and closer to landing at the stadium straight, that’s how compressed the game has come,” he said on the eve of the first match in Auckland before switching his attention to the plight of rival captain Williamson.
There has been intense debate in New Zealand whether captaining the side in all three formats put too much pressure on the 29-year-old, the New Zealand batting talisman who had below par innings of 34, 14, nine and a duck against Australia last month.
Kohli, who also leads all three Indian sides, said leadership was not always determined by results.
“It’s also about how you can get the team together and get the guys functioning under you as well, which I think Kane has done wonderfully well,” Kohli said.
“He has the respect of his team-mates and he has the trust of his teammates, is what I can see, and he’s also a very, very smart cricketer.”
Williamson, described by former New Zealand skipper Brendon McCullum as a “reluctant leader”, said he was always open to doing what is best for the team.
“I do feel fortunate to be leading such a great group of guys that share a similar passion, which is to keep moving this team forward,” Williamson said.
“If those (leadership) discussions are to eventuate and collectively there’s a thought that it would be best for the team, then my stance is whatever is right and fits the group.”
New Zealand head into the series with injuries in the pace bowling ranks and short of recent Twenty20 matches, but they do have the advantage of home wickets where they have excelled against India in recent years.
Although currently ranked sixth in Twenty20 cricket, one place below India, New Zealand claim an 8-3 win-loss record against the South Asian powerhouse including a 2-1 series at home a year ago.
Tim Southee, who captained the New Zealand Twenty20 side against India last year, was confident the squad members who were part of the three-Test thrashing across the Tasman would bounce back.
“What’s gone is gone, and as I said, it was very disappointing and the guys have learnt from it,” Southee said as the teams assembled in Auckland.
“We’re going to look forward to the Indian series and a big way to finish the home summer.”