New Zealand coach Mike Hesson has lauded captain Kane Williamson's demeanour and work ethic for the team's seamless transition from the Brendon McCullum era. Hesson also felt McCullum and Williamson brought a largely similar approach to their leadership styles.
"Kane captained, I think, 36 games before he took over full-time. Even during the time that Brendon was captain, for a number of tours or part of the tours, Kane came in and it was a very seamless change," Hesson told reporters after New Zealand arrived in New Delhi.
"I think the key to any captain-coach relationship is to making sure that we use each other's strengths. Kane is very thoughtful, methodical, [as a] player likes to plan well, but also likes his own time.
"Brendon wasn't hugely dissimilar to that; he prepared really well. He was probably a little bit more of a high profile, sort of 'out there' character, especially in New Zealand. As you see, Kane is probably slightly more of a backseat [type] but within the team they operate in a very similar fashion."
Williamson, for his part, is well aware of the importance of compartmentalising his twin roles as leader and premier batsman. Although he comes on the back of a good run of scores - Williamson finished as the team's second-highest run-getter in New Zealand's recent tours of Zimbabwe and South Africa - he recognises the need to pull his weight as one of the team's better players of spin bowling.
"I suppose you take that [captaincy] hat off and you are very much a batsman and you have a role to play in the team. I see them as slightly different things, so that to me is the focus," Williamson said.
"India is a tough place to play, particularly, in more recent years where the pitches have been very tricky. I guess [when] you throw in world-class spinners, the challenges are very tough but at the same time we see it as a very exciting opportunity. [The] previous series' here, certainly spin played a huge part, and at times batting was difficult."
Hesson said playing on the dry pitches of Bulawayo during the Zimbabwe tour was a useful preparatory exercise ahead of the India series. Both he and Williamson agreed their players had to draw upon whatever past experiences they had of playing in India - either during the IPL or in past tournaments like the World T20.
"That [Zimbabwe tour] was very much a spin-dominant series and conditions," he said. "Although it didn't spin as much, it certainly was slower and probably similar pace that we are going to face in India. The week between the series has been about rest really and recovery, and obviously the next week-to-ten days is going to be critical to be really specific around individual game plans."
Hesson was upbeat about New Zealand's "gifted" spin trio - Mitchell Santner, Ish Sodhi and the returning Mark Craig - making a mark despite their relative inexperience: they have a combined tally of 98 wickets from 34 Tests.
"In the last couple of years, a number of overseas spinners have done well, so we certainly back our spinning group [which is] young and inexperienced but gifted," Hesson said. "The challenge for us is firstly in adjusting to the different ball - the SG Test is going to be completely different to what we have been operating with the Kookaburra. So, there is a little bit of change there, a little bit of changing around seam angles, which are different over here than they are in different parts of the world.
"Even though we are not going to bowl like sub-continental bowlers, we do have to make sure that we find a way to create opportunities. All those three are keen learners of the game and certainly we are going to put a lot of faith in them over the coming weeks."
Hesson also believed that the seamers, Trent Boult, Tim Southee and Neil Wagner, would put to good use the time they spent working on reverse swing in Zimbabwe. "It is a huge component of playing cricket overseas," he said. "We have obviously spent a lot of time in Zimbabwe where we got the ball to reverse, and on surfaces that aren't responsive in terms of seam movement.
"There are many different methods [of getting the ball to reverse] and we certainly are going to have to be working on that over the coming days."