“While Kane Williamson was busy doing his business – scoring runs – he didn’t know that he was scripting his name across the globe and not just New Zealand”.
He made his senior debut at club level at a tender age of 15. While many from his club, Bay of Plenty Cricket, debated against the call to elevate the teenager to the higher level, his coach and Pat Malcon, director of cricket at Northern Districts, were sure that it was. In the same match, a well established BlackCaps spinner Daniel Vettori made a surprise appearance for Hamilton. The kid walked nervously to the middle and took strike. Vettori got the kid out in his very second ball. While the people who questioned the youngster’s selection were proved right, Malcon was left worried, “What have I done to the young talent?”
On talking to the Bay of Plenty Cricket’s young batsman, Malcon was left astonished.
“The next time I face Daniel Vettori, I have to be really positive with my feet. I was too crease-bound. I need to get either right forward or I need to get deep in the crease,” 15-year-old Kane Williamson said. No, he wasn’t even thinking about the dismissal. All he was focused about was his future. He had his priorities straight and New Zealand were lucky to have him in their national squad after a few years.
Every budding cricketer has a role model, who he idolises while growing up. But, Williamson was a tad different. He grew up idolising Tendulkar and loved watching Rahul Dravid, for he considered him “an impenetrable wall of defence”. Williamson loved the resoluteness of Ricky Ponting when he left and decided to play the ball, and the stroke-making of Jacques Kallis and Hashim Amla. He wanted to take each of their qualities when he made his first steps into their world – international cricket.
Williamson, as a 20-year-old, made his Test debut for New Zealand. He was not lucky to have an easy Test debut by playing at home. He was thrown in the intense battlefield in his very first Test which New Zealand played on a turning track in Ahmadabad, India in 2010. His first innings went into history books as cricket witnessed a young batsman with proper textbook cricket strokes marched to a century on debut. He made a 299-ball 131 and helped New Zealand to draw the match.
Apparently, after he returned from the India tour, Williamson downloaded everything he had learned in India and put in a lot of effort to analyse the opposition. Williamson not only has been mentally strong but he has been a quick and more importantly, a keen learner of the game too. His hundred on Test debut had given out a clear-cut message that the kid would go very far in the white jersey for the BlakCaps. En route to the glory and numbers, he had faced numerous hurdles but that never stopped him. He had to wait for almost two years to make a second Test century.
Ever since then, he has brought a chronological consistency in the team. If New Zealand is the ship, he is the captain, who deserves the fancy badge on his uniform and the sailing cap too. When he played only as a player in the team, in 48 Tests, he piled up 4,037 runs at an average of 49.23. That included 13 Test tons and 19 fifties. When Brendon McCullum retired and passed the baton to him, Williamson had become the captain in the truest sense. Ever since he took over the Test captaincy in 2016, the sense of responsibility of the team in him has brought an even better batsman out of him.
Out of 25 innings he has batted as a captain, there have been 12 instances where Williamson either scored a fifty or a century.
Williamson’s latest century came on the second day of the first Test against England on Friday. Those three digits were not just numbers but it were a rush of emotions that struck the New Zealand camp and fans across the Eden Park. Not just them, but the thousands of fans who were stuck to the TV to watch that moment live, too.
When James Anderson bowled a short delivery to Williamson on 77.1 over, the New Zealander pulled it to fine leg to move to 99. Those were the final moments of him being a part of the same club as late Martin Crowe and teammate Ross Taylor. While still on 99, Williamson, Crowe and Taylor had 17 Test centuries to their name – the most by a BlackCaps batsman in Test cricket. Just one more run would raise Williamson to a new level of greatness – something Crowe had predicted in 2015.
Ahead of the 2015 World Cup, Crowe was asked about Williamson’s development, to which he said, “We’re seeing the dawn of probably our greatest ever batsman.”
Williamson’s parents Brett and Sandra were in the Eden Park west stand. Their son was about to do something extraordinary.
77.4 – Anderson to Nicholls, 1 run.
Eden Park comes on its feet. They didn’t tire off screaming the skipper’s name.
77.5 – Anderson to Williamson, 1 run, HE’S GOT THERE. 18th TEST HUNDRED FOR THE NEW ZEALAND CAPTAIN.
Williamson walked to non-striker Henry Nicholls, accepted his congratulations, took off his helmet and with the killer shy smile, he raised his bat to the deserving applause.
The 27-year-old had come a long way. He has always raced against the time to come up with something special. When he made his Test debut at 20, he had become the youngest Test centurion for the BlackCaps. Two years later, at Basin Reserve, he conquered a full-fledged South African attack of Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel and Vernon Philander. He fought and defended almost all the 228 balls and ended with a century, a cracked box, thanks to Steyn, and massive respect that came his way.
Then, his innings at the Lord’s in May 2015 made Williamson the sixth batsman, after Sachin Tendulkar, Don Bradman, Neil Harvey, Graeme Smith and Garry Sobers, to score 10 or more Test centuries before turning 25. He was not just about the defensive game and he proved it like never before. He slew Australia’s attack of Mitchell Starc, Mitchell Johnson, Josh Hazlewood and Nathan Lyon to all parts of the ‘Gabba in November 2015.
While he was busy with his business – scoring runs – he didn’t know that he was scripting his name across the globe and not just New Zealand. Yes, he is one of the best cricketers at present and is en route to becoming one of the greatest to have graced the game. But, it is Williamson’s humility that wins everyone’s hearts and which is why is respected more for being himself.