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News

Stead throws his weight behind misfiring Williamson

"Kane is one of the hardest workers I have seen on his game and he continues to be - a big score is around the corner"

S Sudarshanan
S Sudarshanan
09-Sep-2022
Gary Stead, the New Zealand head coach, is not concerned about the batting form of captain Kane Williamson, and has also backed his leadership skills amid growing questions about an extended lull.
"I think it is always difficult when you have had such a prolific run-scorer as what Kane's been," Stead said a day after New Zealand were bowled out for 82 in the second ODI against Australia to concede the Chappell-Hadlee Trophy. "I think what everyone remembers is immediately [before] his elbow injury, when he was in the richest vein of form that perhaps some players have ever been in."
Williamson has been in and out of the team because of injuries as well as breaks to manage his workload. After a staggering 2020-21, when he scored two double-centuries and totalled 639 runs in four Test innings, the runs have dried up. His last Test half-century was in the inaugural World Test Championship final in June 2021, and he played only three ODIs between the final of the 2019 World Cup and the start of this series against Australia.
On New Zealand's tour of the West Indies last month, Williamson led in the first ODI before a quad muscle strain ruled him out of the series. In the first game against Australia, he made 45 off 70 before holing out to deep midwicket off Glenn Maxwell, while he was trapped lbw after missing Adam Zampa's full toss in the second.
"Kane is one of the hardest workers I have seen on his game and he continues to be," Stead said. "A big score is around the corner. Kane is a very, very consistent trainer. Regardless of if he is scoring runs or not, he appears to me to train the same way."
There have also been questions floating around regarding Williamson's captaincy, with New Zealand having won each of the 11 ODIs his deputy Tom Latham led them in over the last two years.
Stead backed Williamson on that front, too, saying that there was no right or wrong way when it came to captaining a team; sometimes decisions come off, sometimes they don't.
"You are always reflecting on how we go about it and what we might do differently," Stead said. "We all make mistakes from time to time. Who knows what's right anyway? That's the tough thing about the game of cricket. One decision you make will work one day and the next day it won't. At the end of the day, you try to put odds in your favour at any given moment."
Among the decisions that did not come off for Williamson was his use of Trent Boult in the first game against Australia. New Zealand were defending 232 and Boult had picked up three wickets in his first four overs. But he was taken off after his fifth over and then brought back on only in the 29th over, by when Alex Carey and Cameron Green had managed to get in and take Australia to safety, and then victory. Boult compounded the matter when, after the match, he said, "I thought of having a sixth, and maybe a seventh or eighth [over]. Not too sure what the thinking was there."
But Stead refused to read too much into it and said that it was up to the captain and the leaders on the field to make calls based on the situation. "If you go through and dissect every ball, you'll find something to talk about," he said. "That's the decision of the leaders who are out in the middle and we know as a matter of fact that the bowler can bowl only ten overs. So it is up to Kane and the other guys who are out there to work out when is the right time and what looks right then."
Boult, who opted out of his New Zealand central contract, has been in searing form, picking up four wickets in each of the two ODIs. Has there been any change in the way he has trained?
"I haven't seen any shift from that perspective around Trent," Stead said. "He has always been a very, very determined player who gives his best in playing for New Zealand. From my perspective, I haven't seen any shift in his way of doing things. He's been a fine bowler and has been the No. 1 bowler in the world in terms of ICC rankings for, I am not sure how many weeks, but a lot. That's testament to his skills in this format."

S Sudarshanan is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo