Left-handed opening batsman Connor Williams, who represented Baroda in the domestic circuit, had a great time with the bat in the 2000/01 Ranji Trophy. The southpaw amassed 728 runs, and his performances powered his side to a Ranji title victory.
Later, in the Irani Cup the same year, he scored a gutsy 143 and a stroke-filled 83. Though Baroda lost the tournament, Williams’ consistent run impressed the selectors, and soon, he was on the plane to South Africa for a three-match Test series in 2001.
A Test debut that doesn’t find a mention in the annals of Indian cricket
Following a controversy-hit second Test at Port Elizabeth where half a dozen Indian players were pulled up by the match referee Mike Denness for excessive appealing and alleged few other violations, the then 28-year-old Connor Williams got to make his debut in the third Test at Centurion.
Connor Williams replaced Virender Sehwag in the playing XI for the Test, a match which saw Rahul Dravid captain the national side for the first time in Tests. India were put into bat by South Africa on a spicy pitch, but Williams was trapped in front by Lance Klusener for just a paltry 5.
His first outing in the Test arena wasn’t fruitful. And by the time he came out to bat in the second innings, the Centurion test was deemed unofficial by the ICC.
The BCCI had apparently asked the South African cricket board to appoint a different referee for the Centurion test. And by paying heed to the visitors’ demand and replacing controversial referee Denness, the SA board only managed to invite ICC’s ire. The ICC came down hard at both the boards, and officially declared the Centurion test ‘unofficial’.
However, Connor Williams remained unfluttered and exhibited his class with the bat in the second innings against some serious fast bowling. His technique against the new ball looked flawless as long as he batted. He essayed an 83-ball 42-run knock including seven boundaries, before getting out to Klusener, yet again.
Technically, had the Centurion Test been official, Connor Williams would’ve been the 240th player to represent India in Test matches. However, since it was unofficial, Sanjay Bangar was later awarded Test cap No. 240 on his debut in December 2001.
Connor Williams, though, did find a place in the Indian team for the home Test series against England that followed the South African tour. But he did not get a game, and haplessly watched all the three Tests from the sidelines.
Connor Williams, a domestic cricket giant
After that series, Connor Williams was dropped and he never came close to representing India again. He continued playing domestic cricket for Baroda till 2011, and by the time he hung up his boots, he had 7942 FC runs at an average of 40 with 19 centuries to his name.
He was a domestic giant in every sense, but unfortunately, the Indian cap was so near yet so far for him. The Test record books will never show Connor Williams’ name in its annals, but the southpaw did represent India and even played a Test, albeit an unofficial match.