Former New Zealand paceman Iain O’Brien says the inability of opposition teams to read “flatline” captain Kane Williamson is a huge asset to the Black Caps at the World Cup.
Williamson has been leading from the front in style heading into Saturday’s match at Lord’s against reigning champions Australia, who beat the Black Caps in the 2015 final.
One of the world’s leading batsmen, he has scored 414 runs in the tournament so far at an average of 138, including match-winning hundreds against South Africa and the West Indies.
“You just expect him to do well and he expects himself to do well, hence you don’t see a lot of emotion from him either when he fails or when he succeeds,” O’Brien told AFP.
“He’s just so flatline. It’s kind of great to see. In terms of the New Zealand captaincy, (Daniel) Vettori before him was similar — you just can’t read him.
“Not letting your emotion get involved is a massive asset for what Kane does and how he succeeds.”
Reflecting on the tournament as a whole, O’Brien said it was no surprise to see Pakistan, who won the 2017 Champions Trophy in England and Wales, making a late surge for a semi-final place.
“I had them in my top four pre-tournament, because of the Champions Trophy here two years ago and it’s pretty much the same team,” he said.
“You ride the ups and downs with Pakistan and that’s brilliant,” said O’Brien, who was speaking at an event at the Oval in London to raise funds for the redevelopment of Christchurch’s Hagley Oval in the South Island of New Zealand.
– ‘England’s burden’ –
Pre-tournament favourites England, however, have lost their past two matches, against Sri Lanka and Australia, to leave their hopes of a first World Cup title in the balance.
And another defeat, by an unbeaten India side, on Sunday would leave them on the brink of a first-round exit.
“England have been, regretfully, the best team in the competition but can’t get it right,” said O’Brien.
“I think they are just suffering under the burden of expectation and their own expectation.”
O’Brien, who now lives in England, had little time for suggestions that an unusually wet start to the English season had hampered Eoin Morgan’s men by leaving them to play on surfaces with greater movement for bowlers rather than on the true, hard, pitches that favour their aggressive batting style.
“If they didn’t expect tough pitches at this time of the summer in England and Wales, then I think they haven’t done their prep right,” said O’Brien.
“They should have expected wickets that weren’t going to be 400 (ones on which teams scored 400 runs). But they are still good enough, they’ve still got the best team in the tournament given any surface.
“As soon as they click, they’ll be fine and they’ve got two games to click (against India and New Zealand). If they don’t… but they are still my favourite team to win the competition, which is stupid.”
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