Manchester: Last edition runners-up New Zealand have been in good form so far in the 2019 ICC Men’s World Cup and are on course to make it to the semi-finals. It has been an all-round performance from the team with the likes of pace spearhead Trent Boult leading the bowling attack with aplomb.
The 29-year-old talks about the Black Caps’ campaign in this World Cup, how conditions are impacting strategy, his love for fielding, preference to Test cricket, and how this side is different to the Brendon McCullum’s runners’ up back in 2015.
Nine points in five matches, second in the points’ table. You will take that?
Yes, it was a good start to the tournament. Obviously nice to get on the roll with three wins in the first three matches, but it will be harder in the second half of the competition. Unlucky to be rained out against India but one point apiece, it is what it is. It is probably too early to tell but it (one point) could be quite vital later on in the tournament.
You were expected to beat teams like Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Afghanistan. How much did this string of games help generate momentum?
The rankings suggest that we should beat the lower sides, but they have quality cricketers in all those nations. And this tournament is anyone’s for the taking. Nice to get wins early in the tournament to get confidence and momentum behind us. But when it comes to playing the likes of India, England, Australia and West Indies, it is anyone’s for the taking. If we stick to what we do well, hopefully we can have more success.
Do you feel sides are protecting their wickets more in the first 10 overs? As a bowling unit, how you plan for that?
We expected India to do that (save wickets in first 10 overs). Against other sides, I am not sure if it has happened so much already. It is not an unwritten rule but early wickets in this format put a lot of pressure on the opposition. As a bowling unit we try to exploit that as much as we can.
We will see what happens ahead in the tournament, but it has been a good start and a lot of runs have already been scored in my opinion while there have been some games with low totals. It shows there is a difference in conditions across different venues in this tournament, and so taking wickets is a big challenge across different conditions.
Tough sides coming up – West Indies, England, Australia, Pakistan. How are you looking forward to that challenge?
I love this format. In 2015, if we had won the World Cup it would have been unusual because we hadn’t played every team in the competition. If you say you are World Champion, then you should have beaten every other side in the tournament. So, I think this format is brilliant. It is the business end of the tournament and it is very exciting. I cannot wait – that’s why I play the game, to face the big players in big situations. I don’t think we need to re-invent our aims and try to do anything different from what we have been doing.
New Zealand came quite close to winning in 2015. Can this side go one step further?
The World Cup at home was a bittersweet moment for me. We got to the final and were so close to lifting the biggest trophy in cricket. But we have to move on, and we are here now to do a job. In my mind, we are here to win and looking forward to that challenge. Hopefully we can go one better this time around. This World Cup is a huge motivation for me.
That 2015 New Zealand side was an image of Brendon McCullum. How have things shaped under Kane Williamson for this current New Zealand side?
This team has pulled certain things from that team and players from that generation. We still have a handful of players who were involved in that tournament, and of course, you will bring certain traits and styles towards this new squad. Kane is a very different personality and captain than Brendon McCullum.
I have known Kane from a very long time, ever since we went to school as six year olds in the same town. He holds a lot of his own strengths and doesn’t try to captain like Brendon did, or anybody else for that matter. He doesn’t try to be Brendon McCullum.
Like him, this team also just sticks to its strengths. This is a humble team and it is what Kiwis are about – respecting the opposition and having fun, representing what our country stands for. I don’t want to say we take the game too seriously or don’t take it too seriously, but of course, we want to win this World Cup while we have a good time.
About you as a bowler, do you feel at the prime of your career at this stage?
I see myself as very lucky to get the chance to play on the world stage or even to be in the IPL and other leagues, whatever the format is. I love my cricket. It was a dream since I was kid to be able to do what I am doing at the moment and it is nice to be with the New Zealand team right now. A lot of us are good mates and we have known each other for a very long time, almost as if we were the chosen 15 all along to be given this chance to play in this World Cup.
You also work a lot on your fielding. We have seen some sensational catches from you in the IPL. What’s the secret?
Fitness, as a fast bowler, you need to take it with a lot of pride and professionalism. Going to the gym, and heading to track, and running – bowling day to day. In terms of fielding, I really enjoy it. I don’t just go out there and have a laugh. But the game has modernised and evolved. Earlier, guys couldn’t field and you needed to put them at fine leg. Today, if you can offer something in the field, or even the bat, you will be selected regularly in the final eleven. So, I take a lot of pride in my fielding.
There is a lot of red ball cricket coming up as well for New Zealand. Do you prefer Test cricket over limited-overs?
Test cricket is my passion, and I have always mentioned that it’s the game that has been around the longest. You compare eras and players from different eras, and the history that comes with it is amazing. We are looking forward to a big summer in New Zealand with England and India as well, and any chance that we get to play Australia is always exciting. First Boxing Day Test in Melbourne for nearly 20 years is another dream that I want to be part of. But for the moment hopefully we will win more at cricket between now and then.