Williamson: NZ and Pakistan in 'good relations' with each other
Black Caps captain calls the cancellation of a recent series between the two teams "a real shame"
Kane Williamson has stressed that New Zealand's last-minute withdrawal from a tour of Pakistan on security grounds was "a real shame" and insisted that players from both sides remain on "good relations" with each other.
New Zealand pulled out of their tour minutes before the scheduled start of their first ODI in mid-September on government security advice, leaving the PCB in "shock and disbelief". The decision was shortly followed by England's withdrawal from their planned men's and women's tours and left many in Pakistan fearing that further international teams would avoid travelling to the country again in the immediate future.
"It was a really disappointing situation," Williamson - who was not due to be part of the tour - said in a press conference in Dubai on Monday. "I know the team that were there were very much looking forward to the occasion and playing cricket over in Pakistan, and it was a real shame that it wasn't able to go ahead.
"Having said that, I suppose the focus now is here at the T20 World Cup, and no doubt after last night's performance, Pakistan have some momentum and are feeling pretty good about their cricket.
"But there are also a lot of good relations within the two teams. Over the years they've played a lot against each other, and a number of players have played with each other, as well. I'm sure it'll be played in the right spirit, but no doubt Pakistan will be well supported, as they always are here in the UAE."
New Zealand will become the final team to play their first game at the men's T20 World Cup in Sharjah on Tuesday and will come up against a Pakistan side buoyed by a 10-wicket win in their opening fixture against India on Sunday night.
"It was a fantastic performance," he said. "I think Pakistan have come to the T20 World Cup full of confidence, having played in these conditions more than most. They certainly put it on show last night and showed why they're one of the favourites in the competition.
"Tomorrow I'm sure they'll be very strong again, so for us, it's focusing on the cricket that we want to play and trying to adjust to conditions. I think we'll see throughout this tournament at the three different venues that each venue will probably play a little bit differently, so that will be an important factor for us.
"They've got a very well-balanced side, and also a great mix between youth and experience with Mohammad Hafeez and Shoaib Malik in the middle order, as well.
"[Mohammad] Rizwan and Babar [Azam] at the top of the order have been formidable in terms of their partnership and the quality that they bring. [They are] a very well-balanced side and also a side that's very accustomed to playing conditions and playing cricket here in the UAE."
Tuesday's game will be the fifth T20 World Cup fixture at Sharjah, which has generally seen low scores and low bounce since the pitch block was relaid ahead of the UAE leg of the 2021 IPL. Williamson played two games there for Sunrisers Hyderabad, scoring 1 and 11, and despite a high-scoring game on Sunday between Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, he said he expects the venue to be "a challenge" for batters throughout the tournament.
"Yeah, it was certainly a bit of a challenge in terms of any rhythm and fluency with the bat, and with the ball there was a lot of plans that went in place to try and combat that," he said. "Often you go to Sharjah and historically the surface has been very good and it's been very high-scoring. We're sort of seeing two ends of the spectrum there, and I think it's important to go there with an open mind.
"We saw a good game of cricket there yesterday and there were some high scores, as well. But yeah, the most recent experiences there is it's sort of been somewhat of a challenge and quite a scrappy sort of surface, so we'll have to wait and see.
"I think we saw that at the back end of the IPL, where [dew] did become a factor, so no doubt it will be a factor throughout this tournament. As a side it's trying to rely on the experience that is there and share that to sort of take on those added challenges with conditions."
Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @mroller98