'I wouldn't change Kane for anyone in the world at 3'

Brendon McCullum attempts to suppress his excitement about Williamson's potential, but he can't help but predict great things for the batsman

"I don't want to put pressure on him" is Brendon McCullum's constant refrain, when speaking of Kane Williamson. But, like many fans in the country, though McCullum attempts to suppress his excitement about Williamson's potential, though he takes care to manage his expectations, he can't help but predict great things for the batsman.
Six weeks ago, McCullum had said he "firmly believe Kane could go down as New Zealand's greatest-ever batter", echoing an already rising chorus of past players, including Martin Crowe, who have said the same. Now, following Williamson's 57 on Saturday, which was his fourth fifty-plus ODI score on the trot, and the fifth in six matches, McCullum has again outlined his value to the team, and to New Zealand's World Cup campaign.
"Geez, it's scary to think how good Kane could be in the years to come," he said. "I wouldn't change him for anyone in the world at No. 3. I guess a lot of our hope for success in this World Cup will rest on Kane and also Ross Taylor. How they perform in this World Cup will allow us to score the runs which our bowling attack will require to be aggressive, and to be able to get the results we want."
Williamson has been among the quickest improvers in the past year, raising his ODI average by more than 11, since the beginning of 2014. He currently averages 46.46 and strikes at 82.88 after 61 innings. By way of comparison, those numbers are marginally better than those of Virat Kohli at the same stage of his career. Kohli had been only 22 after 61 innings however, where Williamson is 24.
"I guess I'm more familiar with Kane's game and his impact on our team than of Virat's, which is one of the reasons why I say that I wouldn't change him," McCullum said. "Virat is an amazing player. His record is phenomenal already, and he's still such a young guy.
"But what we're seeing with Kane at the moment is a guy who is incredibly comfortable with his game, who keeps trying to develop and learn. He works very, very hard. He's an incredible team man, as well, and I think we've seen that with some of his innings - he's looking to up the ante for the team cause rather than the chance for individual milestones."
Williamson has also put himself in the IPL auction on Monday, but far from being a distraction during the World Cup campaign, McCullum said the IPL experience may make Williamson a better player. "If Kane is able to pick up an IPL contract today, the level headed guy that he is, he will see the learning opportunities in it. Hopefully if he does get picked up he goes to a good team where he's able to continue to develop and learn, because he's very open to learning. He's often speaking to some of the opposition players who are a similar ilk to what he is and he tries to glean any sort of advice or tips off them."
McCullum also said he expects plenty of runs to be scored in this World Cup, as he prepares his team to face Scotland in New Zealand's second match of the tournament. The first five matches have each featured a score of 300 or more, and this new trend brings new strategies into play, McCullum said.
"We've seen already that the wickets in both Australia and New Zealand are pure wickets, so it allows good ball striking and high scores to unfold. From a bowling point of view, you've got to make sure that you can attack. If you can keep taking wickets then you can limit the opposition's ability to attack, and that's one of our philosophies.
"You've also got to have a calm take on it. When you are going around the park occasionally, it can be very easy to give up on an over, as a bowler. But geez, 14 off an over could actually be a good over in the grand scheme of things. You've just got to mitigate against those 25, 26, 27 run overs."

Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. @andrewffernando