DURHAM, England (Reuters) - New Zealand skipper Kane Williamson is a “world class” leader and pundits should not brand him as timid or cautious after the Kiwis lost their last two matches at the Cricket World Cup, batsman Ross Taylor said on Tuesday.
New Zealand were firm favourites to become the first team to seal a semi-final spot after winning five matches in a row but consecutive losses to Pakistan and Australia have left Williamson’s side in third place with one game to go.
British media have picked on Williamson’s sedate captaincy style which they said was in stark contrast to former captain Brendon McCullum’s gung-ho approach but Taylor said he was not concerned by the reaction from pundits.
“I think Kane is a fantastic world class batsman and a world class captain,” he told reporters ahead of Wednesday’s match against England. “You don’t have to look far, the last couple of matches.
“There’s some pundits out there saying he was a great captain. We lose a couple of games and he is a bad captain. He is still a great captain, leads from the front and the team respect him and I love playing under him.
“I played under many different captains, Brendon was the extreme and Kane has his own unique style... Brendon would want to set very attacking fields throughout the whole match and Kane would pick his moments when he wants to attack.”
Taylor said he expected a high-scoring match at The Riverside Ground after Sri Lanka beat West Indies by 23 runs at the same venue on Monday, with both teams scoring 300-plus runs.
“I think it will be a good wicket,” Taylor added. “I think we saw yesterday (in the) Sri Lanka-West Indies (game), 300 played 300. So I think we’ve got to expect... scores of 300-plus.
“But in saying that, both teams have got very good bowling lineups that can exploit conditions if suited and vice versa some very powerful batting lineups as well.”
A win against England will seal a semi-final spot for the Kiwis but — placed three points behind Australia — they cannot top the standings.
However, Taylor said a top-four finish was their primary target and not their seeding for the semi-final fixtures.
“We said at the start of the tournament, it doesn’t matter if you go on as the first seed or the fourth seed as long as you make the semi-finals,” the 35-year-old said. “Once you make the semi-finals, you know you are only two games away.”
Reporting by Rohith Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by Ken Ferris