McCullum created a lot of leaders in the group - Williamson
New Zealand captain Kane Williamson said that the side's aggressive style of cricket, cultivated under the leadership of Brendon McCullum, had been effective but they would have to adapt that to suit the conditions for the World T20 in India. A key factor in the success of that style of play, Williamson said, was that the players had bought into the vision of McCullum and coach Mike Hesson, and he credited McCullum for creating leaders in the group.
The World T20 is New Zealand's first tournament after McCullum's retirement from international cricket last month. McCullum was credited with formulating the side's aggressive style of cricket, which brought them success, specially at home. McCullum also led New Zealand to their first World Cup final in 2015. Moreover, key players like Tim Southee, Trent Boult and Williamson also grew into their roles during his captaincy.
"That aggressive brand that we have been playing has been really effective for us," Williamson said in Mumbai, where they will play two warm-up matches as part of their preparations. "That is our focus but coming over here things will be different and we have to be smart, and look to try to play the brand that is best suited to the conditions and sides we come up against here."
McCullum's empowerment of players had ensured the transition in leadership was a small thing, Williamson said, while stressing that it was important for the team to continue with its selfless approach on and off the field.
"The team has come a long way over the last three years, some players are young but they have played a lot of cricket," Williamson said. "So there is a good mix of experience and youth as well. Most teams are built similarly. He has built a lot of leaders within the team. The change in leadership is a very small thing in the team.
"He (McCullum) led by example and encouraged others also to do the same. He created a lot of leaders in the group. It is fit to say that how the guys bought into his and Mike Hesson's vision was equally important - playing in the field and off the field, playing for one another, to be selfless cricketers and play for the benefit of the side.
"It is important that it continues. There is naturally a transition when you lose a player of the calibre of Brendon - not only as a player, but also as a leader. But that is a part of the game. It is a nature of what we do. You look to move on from what you have done so well."
New Zealand's squad for the World T20 includes the trio of legspinner Ish Sodhi, left-arm orthodox allrounder Mitchell Santner and offspinner Nathan McCullum. Williamson said that while he expected spin on Indian tracks, the composition of the bowling attack would depend on pitch conditions, and his seam bowlers would have as much responsibility as the spinners.
"You come to India and assume that the ball will spin on some surfaces. But it doesn't in some tracks. We will be looking at the pitches and deciding the combinations. We have got some young exciting spinners and hope to do well.
"Spin-bowling will play a big part. But seam-bowling will also play an important part. we have a couple of good seamers in our team. They are having niggles coming into the tournament, but they are all fit."
New Zealand are scheduled to play two official warm-up matches against Sri Lanka and England in Mumbai on March 10 and 12 respectively. They are in Group 2 of the Super 10s stage, along with Australia, India and Pakistan and the winner of the first round. They play hosts India in their first match of the tournament, on March 15 in Nagpur.