Ferguson, the unofficial leader of New Zealand's pace pack
In the absence of Boult and Southee, Ferguson has been leading the scouting meetings among bowlers and says "everyone's voice is very much heard"
Lockie Ferguson refused to admit it at his press conference on the eve of the T20I series decider in Ahmedabad on Wednesday, but he is the leader of this inexperienced New Zealand pace pack in India. In the absence of Trent Boult, who is at the ILT20 in the UAE, and Tim Southee, who is resting ahead of the home Test series against England, Ferguson has been leading the scouting meetings among bowlers. On the field, during the ODIs as well as during the T20Is, he often stationed himself at mid-on or mid-off to offer his inputs to Henry Shipley, Jacob Duffy and Blair Tickner.
"Look, even with Tim and Trent there, we sort of like to think of ourselves as a pack," Ferguson said. "So, we have leaders in it and at the same time, everyone's voice is very much heard and a big thing of the young players coming through is that their voice needs to be heard too and they see the game and play the game differently. For sure, I've had a bit more experience here and naturally, sort of relaying that information to them is important."
Ferguson is used to playing this leadership role for Auckland in domestic cricket and the transition into international cricket has been fairly smooth, though New Zealand's results on this tour might suggest otherwise.
"I guess the leadership part of the [Auckland] squad and trying to lead from the front actually helped develop my game a lot more because it made me think in depth about my role going forward," Ferguson told ESPNcricinfo in July last year. "So, if anything, I developed my game even more and it gave me an opportunity to reflect on where I was with my T20 cricket and one-day cricket and also to try out some new things. Bowling with the new ball was great fun with Ben Lister who, I think, is knocking on the doors for higher honours the way he's been bowling. So, yeah, it was a good couple of months [with Auckland]."
Ferguson also singled out Tickner for special praise though he doesn't have a whole lot of wickets for his shifts in India. Had Southee not taken a break, Tickner might have been playing in the Super Smash for Central Districts or might have been managing his own café 13th Stag at Hawke's Bay Regional Sports Park.
In the second T20I in Lucknow on Sunday, Tickner threatened to defend five off the last over with his cutters on a sluggish surface before Suryakumar Yadav iced the chase for India with a ball to spare.
"Even Blair Tickner, he's come here and done exceptionally well and understood the conditions from an A series he played here," Ferguson said. "He's had experience and he's brought that into this series - both the ODIs and T20s - and he's offering a lot of good information and clarity. I think that's probably a huge positive for the Black Caps where everyone gets a say, and you know we are a collective trying to win the game and certainly, it's nice to have some young bowlers coming through and getting that opportunity and experience."
Ferguson's mentorship of the younger bowlers and exposure to Indian conditions is among the takeaways for New Zealand in their approach to the ODI World Cup in the country in October-November, but their immediate focus is to seal a rare bilateral series victory in India. Apart from a one-off T20I in 2012, the visitors have not won a bilateral series of any format in the country.
"There's a lot of experience and learnings to take from a series and obviously the Indian side is playing so well in ODI cricket at the moment and T20 as well," Ferguson said. "So, certainly coming here and touring - I've been here many times before - but every time I come, I learn something new and it's something, as a group, we can review how this tour went and take learnings certainly through to the World Cup in six months' time. But at this stage, it's very much a focus on tomorrow night. We're a team that sort of rolls game by game, series by series; so the focus is very much for tomorrow."
Ferguson: Hardik's captaincy is similar to Williamson's
Ferguson, who played under Hardik Pandya's leadership in IPL 2022, when Gujarat Titans won the title in their first season, has likened Hardik's captaincy style to Kane Williamson's. While Ferguson has been traded to Kolkata Knight Riders ahead of IPL 2023, Hardik and Williamson will play together in the upcoming season.
"[I] hold him in a very high regard," Ferguson said. "Certainly, from day one, playing underneath him at Gujarat, he's a clear leader within the group and demands the audience very quickly, but at the same time [he's] similar to Kane [Williamson] in a sense that he has time for everyone in the group. So, as you can see, he has done well with India and his body language with the group has been fantastic and I think he's an exceptional leader for the country. I certainly enjoyed my time playing underneath him."
Deivarayan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo