Kane Williamson has started the new year as the No.1 Test batsman and his New Zealand side could become the new No.1 Test team if they beat Pakistan in the second Test in Christchurch. Williamson, though, downplayed those thoughts, saying such landmarks won't distract the team in their last Test this home summer.
"Every game you play, every test you play, any opportunity to win a Test you want to take, but to get into those positions naturally there is just so much hard work, from the first period of play to perhaps late in the match, so for us that's the focus," Williamson said on the eve of the Christchurch Test.
When asked if he ever wondered if he would become the top-ranked Test batsman captaining a potentially top-ranked team, Williamson credited New Zealand's core group that has evolved over the years since he made his Test debut in Ahmedabad in 2010.
"I suppose when you start out as a young player, you want to find your feet and get an understanding for the group that you're in," Williamson said. I guess anybody that gets an opportunity to play one Test for their country or any format perhaps….I think there's something special about Test [cricket] and wearing that baggy is such an amazing thing and one that you certainly never assume. Whenever that time comes or if that time comes, it's just a complete surprise and a fantastic moment to perhaps fast-forward to a number of years and the focus changes from first Test to being involved in a group, a fairly consistent group for such a number of years. And trying to be part of moving that team forward is a different focus and really enjoyable challenge to be involved in.
As the captain of the current group, Williamson has overseen New Zealand's dominance at home. They have been unbeaten in their last 16 home Tests stretching back to 2017, but Williamson refused to look back at that as a "run." Instead, he lauded the team for their consistency and urged them to not get carried away by the recent success.
"Looking back, we were competitive at times, but certainly not all the time," Williamson said. "And the team has come a long way in terms of bringing an element of consistency mainly to their behaviours, which I think has been really important, simple values which are important to our group and to Kiwis, simple things we want to commit to day-in day-out.
"That doesn't always reflect in the performance being perfect - very rarely is it perfect - but certainly it can help a team grow, and it has contributed to the team moving in that direction. But, here we are now on the eve of another game, where anything can happen. It's about peeling it back and focus on what's important to the group and keep looking at the bigger picture and how we can hopefully continue to trend in the right direction, facing the challenges that we continue to face."
About six years ago, Brendon McCullum's ODI side turned a rugby-mad nation into a cricket-loving country with their barnstorming performances in the 2015 World Cup at home. Now, Williamson's Test team is on the verge of something special at their own backyard, and he hoped that the Kiwi public would be pleased with their success.
"Yeah, I hope they're enjoying it watching and those sort of things," Williamson said. "For us, it's important we play to the best of our ability as much as we can. This game that we play is fickle and doesn't always happen like that and winning Test matches are very tough. We certainly respect that and we know how challenging it is against any international opposition. So, we want to keep starting again and commit to what's important to our group and uphold the behaviours that are important to the team. And we do hope that connects with the Kiwi public."
Deivarayan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo