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Feature

Secret behind New Zealand's consistency at ICC events? Clear communication, says Williamson

NZ are better than other sides at reading conditions, and that allows them to strike faster than their opponents

Sidharth Monga
Sidharth Monga
04-Nov-2022
Yet another World Cup where you look at them and think maybe this time they don't have it in them to make it. But yet again, New Zealand are the first team to reach the semi-finals.
Despite that bowling attack, if you put them up against Australia and England over 10 matches in these conditions, you'd expect the other two to prevail.
Tournament play is different though. Especially when only two teams make it out of a group of six. Room for error is negligible. Every new venue brings new conditions and new ground dimensions. You have to read the conditions quicker and strike faster than the opposition. That's something New Zealand have been good at, giving them their fifth straight white-ball World Cup semi-final.
What they did to Australia in the first game of this tournament was somewhat similar to what they did to India in 2016. They picked three spinners to India's two, went after the new ball, hitting two sixes in the first over and then defended 126 with the ball beginning to rag. Here, they again read the pitch in Sydney perfectly, attacked Australia early and have kept finding a way since then.
Their captain Kane Williamson is proud of how well they assess and adapt to different conditions. And this is unlike Test cricket, where you get to see a pitch three days in advance and compare how it is coming along. In this World Cup, sides have had their first look of the pitch on the day of the match.
"Often it's very difficult to know exactly how a pitch is going to play until you start playing," Williamson said. "And then trying to be really clear with your communication, whether it's as batters or a bowling unit. Make sure you're getting around each other to report back and either identify what a competitive total is and what options for some of your better ones to take. Then same with the ball really."
The system then is to keep in touch with the dugout. A batter who is coming in next might send a drink out and ask something. You take that moment out and report back. When you are bowling, you help the new bowler out. Not to say other teams don't do it, but New Zealand perhaps do it better because their incoming batters or bowlers often know just what to do.
"The two that are out there are the two that are out there, and then you might get a drink that comes out, and they might ask, 'how's it going?'" Williamson said. "Someone on the sideline might be curious. So you report back what you feel is happening. Then sometimes it is your team blueprint, where do we need to be? How do we get there? And doing your best to do it.
"It's one of the challenges of tournament cricket, but it certainly makes it enjoyable to do to try to make those adjustments. Therefore, the value of the contribution isn't always what it might seem. So it's really trying to commit to what you're trying to do as a team and be nice and clear on how that looks. Then from there just really trying to make those adjustments as you go."
One example of making adjustments on the go was when Ireland's batters took Mitchell Santner and Ish Sodhi on, taking 29 off their first overs. Immediately, Santner made the adjustment, cutting down the pace and going wide of their sweeping arc.
"Often it's very difficult to know exactly how a pitch is going to play until you start playing. And then trying to be really clear with your communication, whether it's as batters or a bowling unit. Make sure you're getting around each other to report back and either identify what a competitive total is and what options for some of your better ones to take. Then same with the ball really."
Kane Williamson
"We had a little chat, absolutely," Williamson said when asked about the adjustment. "Obviously being out in the middle and feeling that, when the spin is on the slow side and you bowled a particular line, that made it much more difficult to control. They made that adjustment quickly, which was great.
"Also being put under pressure, we know how dynamic that batting line-up of Ireland is, and they'll keep taking it on. They [the spinners] bowled beautifully to make that adjustment quickly and adjust their line and take a few Ks off their deliveries, which definitely made it a little bit more difficult."
New Zealand might feel Williamson himself getting in a big contribution might be one of the last pieces of the puzzle. Williamson scored 61 off 35, but he scored them his way. He scored 15 off the first 15 balls he faced before he started to get going. The rhythm was better than earlier, and he kept going.
"You're looking to make the contributions, and there's a lot of thought that goes into trying to position ourselves, whether it's my batting or someone else's in terms of the partnership," Williamson said. "And you're always wanting to try and get that momentum and take those options and feel quite good about it. So it was nice to make a contribution today."

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo