“The player who has made it a habit of coming to the rescue in the team’s second innings now averages 64.83 in the second innings in the last five years”
Defined as natural aptitude or skill, talent is a term that is often overused in the sporting arena. A young enthusiast who can stroke the fastest of deliveries for a straight drive has great potential. A cricketer who can milk away the bowling with immaculate footwork is admired. Yet another athlete who can reverse sweep his way to success is shortlisted as a future superstar. Maturity, temperament and the ability to take on responsibility are the further criteria to term a player as talented, but as it so often unfolds, the most skilled players often do not leave an indomitable mark on the field.
Yet others might not progress at the same rate as their more famed counterparts. Hence, it took Rohit Sharma well over five years and a shot at the opening slot to fix his spot in the Indian squad. Vinod Kambli was unable to grasp his chances, remaining in the backburners of Sachin Tendulkar’s success. And more recently, Kane Williamson – the orthodox under-hyped Williamson – seemed to have lost his way amid the Virat Kohlis, the Steven Smiths and the Joe Roots, but after a series of consistent and crucial knocks, he seems to have reemerged, looking hungrier than ever.
Being termed as one of the four future superstars by a legend of the game, whilst being an honour, is also deeply pressurizing with its effect being felt each time a cricketer walks out to take the field. He no longer has to just concentrate on guiding his team to safety, but also has to endure the harsh eyeballs and criticisms that will come his way after a failure. If the fellow competitors are from countries like Australia, India or England – countries where the citizens take courses in the sport – he further risks losing the limelight, which means that he has to perform twice as better as his counterparts to grab attention.
Thus, even though Williamson has averaged 61.93, 90.15, 47.06, 62.88 and 63.75 from 2014 through 2018, respectively, he has been overshadowed by the boisterous Kohli, the skilled Smith and the assured Root in the last few years, but like an omnipresent phantom, his spirit lingers large over the Kiwi camp, coming to the fore each time the side is in trouble.
A wide array of shots like the sweep, the late cut and a strong defence makes him a strong player of spin, while his quick feet movement ensures his success in the fast conditions of South Africa or Australia. This has been reflected in his performances over varied conditions in the recent past.
In Australia, Williamson has two hundreds – one scored at Brisbane when the other players in his side failed to even cross 50, and the other – an excellent knock of 166, which was scored after Australia had piled on a daunting 559 in their first innings. Against the bowling of Mitchell Johnson, Josh Hazlewood and Mitchell Starc – who hit the 160kph on the speedometer, Williamson held his own and effortlessly scripted a memorable innings.
Also read: Kane Williamson’s moment of glory
A hundred on the second day at Lord’s – a ground is best known for the swing it produces – along with an innings of 77 at Centurion in South Africa even as Dale Steyn, Vernon Philander and Kagiso Rabada were wreaking havoc at the other end highlights the Kiwi skipper as a man for all conditions, which was once again on display in the third Test match of the series against Pakistan in UAE.
With hardly anything to segregate the two sides in the game till Day 4, it required a Herculean effort from a player to induce a result. The pitch was breaking with every ball, the cracks were widening and with the bounce getting awkward with each passing minute, the pressure was well and truly on the touring side to handle the nerves and stand tall. Enter Williamson, with a rich repertoire of cover drives, sweeps and late cuts under his belt.
After Ross Taylor had walked back to the pavilion due to the uneven bounce, Yasir Shah had grown in stature and was producing balls that kept low and turning sharply by the dozens. Williamson, then on 14, pledged to stand tall among the abyss, showing his side how to play spin on such a track. He transferred his weight with conviction, judged the length of the ball to perfection and played shots that left the sparse spectators in awe. The cover-drives were mesmerizing, his shots against the fuller deliveries were timed just as well and even though there were some nervous moments, his innings of 139 had resilience and resolve; determination and grit writ all over it.
Shah, who had looked monstrous at the start of the day was now a tamed reflection; a bowler who was trying everything to induce Williamson to make a mistake. The Kiwi, on the other hand, was not only cautious but also adapted well, making necessary adjustments when required. On one such instance, the batter, who had wanted to play a Yasir delivery on the backfoot, upon realizing that the ball had stayed low came forward and brought his bat down quickly to eradicate the threat of the delivery.
“It was a very difficult innings. The great thing about Kane is he makes it look easy at times when those who’ve been out there realise how difficult it is. Such is the class of the man he makes batting look ridiculously easy,” said batting coach Craig McMillan.
The player who has made it a habit of coming to the rescue in the team’s second innings now averages 64.83 in the second innings in the last five years. Sri Lanka’s Angelo Matthews is the only other batter to average more than 50 in the second innings from 2014 (51.32), while David Warner (48.30), Smith (46.24), Kohli (45.62) and Root (41.82) complete the list.
With a gritty 161 at Barbados in 2014 in the second innings, a well-made 242 against Sri Lanka at Wellington after the side were trailing by 135 runs and then came back to win the game by 193 runs, a controlled 104 against Bangladesh at the same venue two years later after Bangladesh posted 595 on the board and now the special at UAE, Williamson has well and truly carved his niche among the other superstars. He might not be overly scrutinized or might not find his name on the headlines every day but that is no worry for the maverick who continues to impress sans fuss and glamour.