Kane Williamson: Playing the 'Gentleman's Game'
A New Zealand television journalist looked at London’s overcast Monday morning and termed it as a funeral-like atmosphere. The feeling was mutual to any person who donned the New Zealand Ensign the previous day. After a gap of four years, a dream had died again.
For the Blackcaps captain Kane Williamson, the defeat hit in ‘waves’. Putting it in simple words of his -
“I guess it is an odd feeling to in some ways not have a loser of the match but have a Cup winner.”
Williamson knew it very well. He could have been, should have been at the podium collecting the World Cup Trophy, but here he was sticking to his calm demeanour, portraying every inch of respect for the winners and not crying foul over ICC's controversial rules unlike some of his team-mates.
Williamson is part of the unfortunate five - Ross Taylor, Trent Boult, Matt Henry and Martin Guptill who were part of two successive World Cup final defeats. The leader of men who fell short by a solitary run on the cricket’s greatest stage and still carried himself with unparalleled class reconfirmed his stature as cricket’s true gentleman of the modern era.
If Jofra Archer’s list of tweets were to be taken seriously during New Zealand’s tour of England in 2013, the fatal day had already been prophecized.
Rolling back the years in Williamson's uncomplicated career, the basics were laid as early as the school cricket. According to reports from Williamson’s school coaches, he is said to have scored more than 40 centuries at the school level.
His hunger and thirst to go out and score runs, irrespective of the opposition is a humble reminder of his love for the game. If his coaches are to be believed, Williamson's reaction to every century or a win continues to be the same as it was more than 15 years back.
A century on debut at only 20 years of age gave the world a cricketing prospect to look forward to.
Lauded frequently for his tactics and shrewd bowling changes, Williamson has a thinking brain. There are remarkable differences in the choice of field placements for different pitches, conditions and most importantly the opposition. His brilliance lies in the fact that he can reflect the same in his shot-selections while battling even in crunch situations against the toughest of oppositions.
His knock of 242 runs against Sri Lanka in Wellington was an exemplification of his grit to dig deep and bring out the best he has to offer, an innings that was instrumental in New Zealand's comeback to beat Sri Lanka.
Williamson's century against South Africa in 2012 in Wellington is still considered by the critics as one of his best. In search of 389 runs for victory, New Zealand were reduced to 39 for three on Day 5.
In dire need of partnerships and application from the batsmen, a 21-year old Williamson dug it out to score a brilliant century and defy South Africa a famous win. His 14th Test century against Zimbabwe in the second Test at Bulawayo made him the youngest to score centuries against all Test-playing nations.
At 29, Kane Stuart Williamson averages 52.68 in 133 innings, having recently scored his 21st hundred against England which helped the hosts salvage a draw and take the Test series 1-0.
Statistically, the year 2015 is considered Williamson’s best in the longest format. He amassed 1172 runs in eight matches with the best score of 242 runs against Sri Lanka at the Basin Reserve. That same year he produced a rock-solid performance of 166 runs at the WACA in Perth when every batsman seemed to be struggling against the likes of Mitchell Johnson.
On paper, Williamson seems to have matured with age after being chosen as the captain in 2016 after the retirement of crowd-favourite Brendon McCullum. In just over three years, his average rocketed to 60.13 as captain from 49.23 as not captain, with 16 wins from the 28 Tests he has captained and losing only six in the process.
Williamson has become a mainstay at No.3 for the blackcaps, giving his team much-needed respite every time they lose a wicket early on. In 114 innings at number three, he has scored 5728 runs at an average of 56.16.
He has worked hard on that talent, honed his skills leaps and bounds and learned to adapt, scoring runs in trying situations to emerge as the quiet fighter that he always has been. For him, it has never been about the stats.
You might call him old-fashioned but his measure of success isn't dependent on the number of centuries or runs scored in a year. His behaviour on and off the field gives a reminder of why this sport is known as the gentleman's game if played in the right spirit and the right frame of mind.