Tim Southee on Thursday joined Australia's Pat Cummins as the second top pacer to become the captain of a Test side when Kane Williamson stepped down as captain of the New Zealand team.
Williamson, who captained the Black Caps in 40 Tests, winning 22, drawing eight and losing 10 matches (2 NR) after taking over from Brendon McCullum in 2016, has decided to relinquish the Test captaincy to concentrate on the white-ball game.
"Kane Williamson will step down as captain of the Black Caps Test side, with Tim Southee to take up the leadership mantle," the New Zealand Cricket announced on Thursday. Williamson said the time was right to step back.
"Captaining the Black Caps in Test cricket has been an incredibly special"honour," he was quoted by NZC as saying in a release on Thursday. "For me, Test cricket is the pinnacle of the game and I've enjoyed the challenges of leading the side in the format.
Captaincy comes with an increased workload on and off the field and at this stage of my career, I feel the time is right for this decision. "After discussions with NZC, we felt that continuing to captain the white-ball formats was preferable with two World Cups in the next two years," said Williamson.
He will continue to be the country's ODI and T20I captain and will play all three formats and extend his full support to Southee. "I'm excited to support Tim as captain and Tom (Latham) as vice-captain. Having played with both of them for most of my career, I'm confident they'll do a great job.
"Playing for the Black Caps and contributing in all three formats is my number one priority and I'm looking forward to the cricket we have ahead." Southee, who played 346 internationals and already captained the T20 side on 22 occasions, will become New Zealand's 31st Test captain when he leads the team on this month's Test tour to Pakistan.
The two-Test series starts in Karachi on December 26 and concludes with the match starting in Multan on January 3. New Zealand coach Gary Stead said Williamson had been a fine Test captain.
"Kane's guided the Test team through an immensely successful period which is a testament to his ability to bring people together and work towards a common goal," he said. "He's certainly led from the front with his own performances and that was very much the case during our push to win the World Test Championship.
"We hope by lessening his workload we can continue to see the best of Kane Williamson for longer on the international stage, and we know he will remain a key leader in this group." Stead said the decision to appoint Southee captain came down to the direction in which the Test team wanted to head, the NZC release said.
"Tim's a quality leader with a good cricket brain," Stead said. "We've seen his captaincy skills on display with the T20 side and I'm sure he'll continue to bring an aggressive style, whilst still maintaining the core fundamentals of how this Black Caps team operates in the Test arena," he added.
Southee said he is really excited to lead the Test in Tests as they are the ultimate challenge for a cricketer. "It's been a surreal few days and it's just a massive honour to be appointed as Test captain.
"I love Test cricket, it's the ultimate challenge and I'm really excited by the opportunity to lead the team in this format. "Kane's been an outstanding Test captain and I'm looking forward to working with Gary on how we can build on that."
NZC CEO David White hailed Williamson for the way he's led the Test side. "Kane is one of our all-time greats and our priority is to ensure he enjoys his cricket and plays for New Zealand for as long as possible.
"He's a brilliant leader and the success the team has achieved during his time in the longest and arguably toughest format of the game, has been nothing short of remarkable.
"Statistically, he's the most successful Test captain we've ever had - which culminated in the team rising to the number one ICC Test ranking at the start of 2021 and the eventual victory in the ICC World Test Championship Final in June that year," he said.
Williamson's decision to quit the Test captaincy does not come as a surprise as New Zealand have seen several players turning down central contracts to continue playing in the lucrative T20 league circuit.
Normally, players decide to withdraw from white-ball cricket to prolong their white-ball career. But with the mushrooming T20 leagues promising lots of riches, Williamson has decided to lessen his burden a bit by relinquishing the Test captaincy as he wants to play all three formats. Whether he can manage to do so for a long period needs to be seen.