Kane Williamson has opted to step down as New Zealand test captain and has handed over the reins to pacer Tim Southee after six years at the helm. Williamson has however chosen to stay on as white ball captain (ODI’s and T20’s) and will also continue to be a playing member of the test side.
Under Williamson, the Black Caps won the inaugural World Test Championship, beating India in the final at Lord’s. Unfortunately, they will not be able to defend their crown in the current cycle, with poor results at home against Bangladesh and South Africa and a dismal away series in England, where they were whitewashed 3-0 by an English team coached by Brendon McCullum (Williamson’s predecessor as NZ captain) costing them dearly.
New Zealand have also been a pretty consistent team in the white ball format under Williamson, but haven’t quite been able to cross the final hurdle. They were finalists at the last ODI World Cup (losing on the boundary count), again finalists at the T20 World Cup in the UAE (won by Australia), and reached the semi-finals of the recently concluded T20 WC before going down to Pakistan in the last four.
Williamson giving up the Black Caps captaincy means that none of the traditional Fab Four (Joe Root, Steve Smith, Virat Kohli and Williamson) are now in charge of their respective national test teams- the format that is widely considered to be the pinnacle of the game. There could however be a new entrant into the Fab Four soon, and that is Pakistan’s Babar Azam, who has been scoring runs for fun this season. The Messi vs Ronaldo debate may have been settled in favour of the former with Argentina’s World Cup triumph, but Babar against Kohli is a similar cricketing debate that is yet to be decided. Age is in favour of Babar, but many in Pakistan would like him to improve on his captaincy, which has been found wanting in recent times.
Most runs in 2022 (across all formats)
Pakistan had a favourable WTC draw, facing the traditional SENA teams at home and weaker teams on the road. However, they failed to make the most of home advantage and are already out of the race for the final. Some part of the blame could be apportioned to the placid pitches they served up at home to Australia, England and New Zealand, but a part of it could also go to Babar’s captaincy, which has mostly been defensive and nowhere near the likes of Kohli and Ben Stokes.
An example of it was seen in the second test in Karachi against New Zealand, where Pakistan’s bizarre tactics of bowling short to Black Caps No.10 Matt Henry and No.11 Ajaz Patel backfired and the duo added more than a hundred runs for the last wicket, demoralising the hosts. Kohli has a fantastic record as captain, especially in the longer formats, and if Babar can emulate his results as skipper to go along with the runs he’s already making, Pakistan’s cricket can reach newer heights.