Opinion: What Blackcaps captain Tim Southee has already shown us in new test era

OPINION: As the sun set over National Stadium at Karachi last Thursday, a white umbrella hovered over the pitch.

It was a strangely shaped umbrella, one with odd curves, and dottings and smatterings of black on its points - it definitely wasn't conventional.

Then, as the ball whizzed out of Ish Sodhi's hand, it purred past the umbrella.

Before, the umbrella let out synchronised screams of delight, as the almost childlike euphoria set in.

A nod to the decision made by the Blackcaps' new test skipper.

It was by no means an aggressive declaration, more forthright, but it allowed New Zealand to take two wickets in the last three overs, dangling the carrot and laying the foundation for them to try to build towards a rare win in Pakistan the next day.

Yes, it was an attacking field, one you may expect in the final over of day four of a test match, but it also showed intent.

You've got to be willing to lose to win. Tim Southee meant and means business.

The drawn two-match series in Pakistan is certainly a small sample size, but it's at least something to consider. 

You just have to look at how test cricket is being played by successful sides at the moment to know the form of the game is transitioning. Arguably, it's transcending and it has to - it needs to.

It's not quite yet at the stage of desperation, but as interest wanes, the style of play has to change and captivate, but Blackcaps coach Gary Stead also knows the importance of identity.

Babar Azam and Tim Southee at the toss.
Babar Azam and Tim Southee at the toss. Photo credit: Getty Images

"The key thing for Tim is letting him develop in his own time what he thinks it'll look like for the team, and not to put too many expectations or comparisons between other people," Stead said, after the drawn second test.

"Everyone does it slightly differently, and the great thing about our game of cricket is there are different opinions and everyone's got opinions about how to play the game."

And while there will be the 'Southee way', the comparison can't help but be made with what's happening around the world.

We've already seen how quickly Brendon McCullum and Ben Stokes have stamped their marks since taking charge of England, and Pat Cummins has shown that personal milestones are irrelevant, if they don't offer the chance to go for the jugular. Sorry, Usman Khawaja.

That more aggressive style is one that would make sense for Southee, given his time under the tutelage of McCullum, which is arguably when he came into his mould, and the success the pair had in one of the all-time New Zealand eras.

And there were certainly moments in the Pakistan series when you couldn't help but think 'ah yes, that's got a bit of McCullum to it.' A catching backward point for example, though as Ish Sodhi pointed out, it's not the worst idea with reverse swing.

But while there will be McCullum influences, Southee will still do it his way - something which coach Gary Stead acknowledged after the series wrapped up.

"He was thrown in the deep end, very much so," Stead told Newshub. "We played three spinners, which is certainly not the norm of what we do in New Zealand conditions. I think for him to learn and adjust will be a great experience for him and for our team." 

That first chance on home soil will, ironically, be against England next month. Under the watchful gaze of McCullum, Southee will move his chess pieces around the board as he looks to claim checkmate against his old teammate.

As subtle as it could end up being, it will likely be in a style and manner that we haven't seen from a New Zealand skipper.

"I think aggression is shown in different ways throughout the test match," Stead said. "Tim comes from a pace bowling mentality which I guess is different to Kane as a No.3 batsman mentality, so they're always going to bring different perspectives on it."

Sodhi knows Southee well - after all, they've played for Northern Districts and New Zealand together for a long time. They also have plenty of experience as a skipper-spinner partnership in T20 internationals. 

"He's always used me as an aggressive option and reminded me to stick it in the right areas there for long periods of time," Sodhi told Newshub.

"But also the really cool thing was he'd keep things quite light [during the test series]. So if he could see I was getting wound up or out there and quite frustrated, he'd come to me and remind me that it's a long game."

Again, a McCullum aspect - play with a smile on your face - after all, you're representing your country in the game you love.

"He just tried to keep it really simple for me." Sodhi added, "Which I think is good because especially as a legspinner, you want to have your protection. 

"Or you think oh maybe I should have some more men around the bat and create pressure and he was like 'na, we're just going to keep going with this for a bit'... but he was really open to hearing our ideas as well."

And who knows, this new style may keep some, including Southee, around longer than they initially had planned. 

Just look at how the way England have played has revitalised the likes of Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad. But that's because it's working. They're winning. Now New Zealand needs to as well.

The umbrella could yet come out again.