New Zealand skipper Kane Williamson recently had his pre-tournament press meet in London ahead of starting their campaign in the ICC Champions Trophy 2017. Following their impressive show in the 2015 World Cup, expectations are quite high from the Kiwi brigade.
Here is what the skipper had to say about the chances of his team.
Q: Just a quick question about security. Obviously, it’s a big issue here at the moment. Are you satisfied with the arrangements in place going forward that you’ll be secure throughout the whole of the tournament?
Kane Williamson (KW): Yeah, the tragedy that was in Manchester was just horrific. And our thoughts are with the people of Manchester.
Looking at the cricket side of things, you look back at what the ICC put in place and we do feed off the information we get from them and trust in it.
Q: How do you rate, realistically, your chances of picking that trophy for real in a few weeks’ time? In your mind, do you have a clear strategy of how that’s going to happen? I mean, you’re capable of winning that trophy perhaps in this country more than you would when big, global events are staged elsewhere in the world. Is that part of it, do you think?
KW: Yeah, naturally I suppose the western sides have played huge amounts of cricket in these conditions. But it’s such an interesting tournament, such a short tournament that on any given day, particularly in one-day cricket, things can happen that might be out of your control and go one way or the other. So you do need to be hitting the ground running.
We do have a very tough pool. Both pools are difficult. So it’s a very interesting tournament, having played in it before. It goes very quickly. And it has so many strong teams that are real contenders. Everyone is a real contender because of the reasons I just mentioned. So you do need to go out and play with that freedom and be prepared to take the game on and hope that things fall in your favour.
Q: If I can ask about the home nation, England. How strong is this England side now, compared to in times gone by? And are they a realistic contender for this tournament?
KW: Absolutely a realistic contender, like all the other sides. They’re a strong one-day unit, and I think the best England one-day unit that I’ve played against. And we’ve been fortunate to play against them a few times and had some good battles.
But they have power particularly in the batting line-up that they show throughout, perhaps down to 10 is a real strength of theirs. But, look, it’s cricket. It’s one-day cricket, and things happen that are unexpected a lot of the times.
So all teams will be going and putting their front foot forward to execute the plans they set out for themselves as best as they can. I think when teams do that and achieve that then they can beat anyone.
Q: Ben Stokes, one of the key players for the England side, he went off the field yesterday with a bit of a sore knee. I know I’m perhaps jumping the gun here, but if there was a potential that he missed any or some of the games for this tournament, how big a blow would that be to the England side? How much of a focal point is he in that England team?
KW: When you lose — well, I’m getting ahead, too. I’ve just heard this news. But anytime you have an injury to perhaps one of your starting 11 players, that is a loss. And it means you might need to restructure things or reshape things just a little bit.
But nowadays there’s so much depth in all the teams that when there are injuries guys can come in and try to pick up that mantle. But he’s a world-class player and I’m sure he’ll be fine moving forward.
Q: Quick question on the ICC. This afternoon, I might be springing this on you as well, but they’ve announced some potential law changes which could come in around October time. One of those is essentially allowing umpires to send off players who are guilty of serious misconduct on the field. Do you have any initial reaction to that, sort of a red card for cricketers?
KW: If there’s a need for it. I think in recent times the games have been played in very good spirit. But if it’s required, then why not? I can’t see too many cards given out, I wouldn’t have thought. But I suppose there can be a place for it.
Q: Ben Stokes came out this week and spoke about his time in the IPL. He said he’d love to see the entire England team out there one year if possible. Do you look back on your time there with the same kind of fondness? And would you like to see as many of the Kiwi players out there as well?
KW: Yeah, I think it’s a great competition to be part of. We certainly push for as many players as we can to be involved in a tournament like the IPL and getting that exposure and the learning that can be done there playing with other international players and obviously the local talent that’s in that country.
So it’s a huge tournament. And, like I mentioned, the more the merrier, I suppose. A little bit more difficult in this part of the world with the seasons. But it looks like it’s happening more and more where guys are being allowed to have that time away to be exposed to the IPL. So it’s a fantastic competition, one that encourages the experience for sure.
Q: Do you think in a way because of New Zealand’s resources being far more limited than other countries that they’ve had to have a more grown-up approach to IPL — seems that New Zealand, as the governing body, has seen the advantage of players going to the IPL in a way that perhaps bigger, richer nations haven’t? Do you know what I mean? Maybe you’ve approached it in the right way, a different way in New Zealand.
KW: I think they approach it with an open mind and understand its place and also understand the changing landscape of professional cricket, I suppose, where there’s more and more of these T20 competitions, domestic T20 competitions, but they’re pretty much full of players from all around the world.
So I guess an important part of cricket, with T20 cricket at the moment, it’s a big part of the game. And I think as you’ll see, with the England T20 comp getting established in a couple of years, that happening again.
So it’s important for players to have that freedom at times. Although the international schedule is obviously the most important. And it’s a very busy one. So it’s a balancing act with the opportunity, also the time away from the game, making sure that you’re still very much fresh for international cricket.
Q: That balance between players’ freedom and the governing body being controlled is obviously a big issue in Australian cricket at the moment. When you have that element of disarray or contention or whatever between the players and the governing body, does that give other teams and opponents a bit of an advantage against Australia right now?
KW: I don’t really think so. There’s obviously a lot of media attention about that. I’m sure they’ll come to a conclusion at some point. But the other team’s a very strong side, they gel well together, and so they’ll always be a threat no matter what tournament they’re in.
Q: New Zealand witnessed the rebirth of England a couple of years ago in that memorable ODI series in 2015, which obviously came straight after you walloped them in Wellington in the World Cup. How much do you think that series will help you given the same conditions and quite recent knowledge of what England is capable of in these conditions and what you’re all capable of in these conditions as well?
KW: Yeah, anytime you have those experiences against opponents you’ll be coming up against in similar conditions, feel pretty much the same sort of side as well. It’s only a good thing.
But you don’t tend to look too much into it, particularly in tournaments like this when it’s a one-off game and both teams are looking to play with that freedom and hope that it comes off for both sides. But they’re playing very good cricket, and a much improved brand to what they have done years ago, maybe during that World Cup. And they’re an exciting team to watch. They’ll definitely be a threat in this competition.
Q: What of your own preparations? The team was out in Ireland playing a tri-series last week. Obviously, the loss to Bangladesh. Are you happy enough with how you’re progressing?
KW: Yeah, a lot of guys have had cricket in the IPL. We’re heavily involved in that tournament, and we’ve seen a squad with perhaps ten guys, that weren’t involved because of their participation in the IPL, in Ireland.
There’s a number of guys getting cricket in preparation for this tournament that, once again, it counts for something but not for everything because you still come back to one-off clashes against opponents, that if you come out on the right side of the ledger then you can go a long way in the competition. But there’s not much time for slip ups nor much time for conservative cricket.
Q: There’s been a lot of rule changes and a lot of innovations that T20 cricket has brought about. What’s the major headache for you as a captain, I’m just talking a captain in ODI cricket in the last two or three years, if you can talk post-2015 World Cup?
KW: Probably the over rates. You’re always under a bit of pressure as captain with the over rates. No, that’s just tongue-in-cheek.
The game has moved a long way, as you’ve seen the brands that teams are playing with these days. We’ve spoken a bit about England and Australia. Us perhaps. All the teams, they’re all huge threats and how T20 cricket, from a batting point of view, has created players that play with much more freedom and a far more aggressive style, hit the ball 360 degrees.
And I suppose you put your captain’s hat on, that makes it more of a challenge than maybe it used to be, when players weren’t so innovative.
Yeah, it’s a great thing that the game’s moving so quickly and how T20 cricket has influenced the other formats, which I think has only improved cricket.