Once in a way, there materializes a cricketer who has this unique potential and extraordinary ability, which makes people just sit up and take notice. One such cricketer is the Kiwi batsman, Kane Williamson. The beauty of Williamson’s batting lies in its fundamental simplicity. A style of batting that is in sheer contrast to the rampaging ferocity of a David Warner and is the total antithesis of the inimitable pyrotechniques of an AB De Villiers. Yet it is a style that is a pure joy to behold! The allure behind Kane Williamson is a rock solid certainty; an assurance whose reservoir is undiminished. If a single word is capable of encapsulating the functioning of Kane Williamson at the batting crease, it has to be ‘basic’.
A beautiful amalgam of still head, soft hands, sublime timing and a serene temperament makes this bearded New Zealander the precision engineering of batting. Comfortable against pace and at home to spin, Williamson has in his short career, carved out a formidable niche for himself as an opponent to be wary of. The transcendence of Kane Williamson from Good to Great is neither the result of an ingrained prodigious talent (a la Sachin Tendulkar), nor the outcome of a razor sharp focus on transforming weakness into a weapon of mass destruction (a la Steve Smith/Azhar Ali). What makes Williamson one of the best modern day greats is an exquisite understanding of the most rudimentary aspects of the game. This facet of him was on splendid display at the WACA on the 15th of November 2015 when he put to steely sword, a much vaunted Aussie bowling attack boasting the likes of Mitchell Starc, Mitchell Johnson, Josh Hazlewood and Nathan Lyon. Incremental adjustments and small situational adaptations resulted in marginal gains being converted into major triumphs. When the left arm quicks attacked him around the wicket, the unassuming Williamson shifted his stance to a barely perceptible open position. This posture enabled him to open up his left shoulder a wee bit and take his left leg ‘out of the way’. By positioning himself at the crease in this manner, Williamson could either leave the ball slanting across him or use the gaps square of the wicket, whenever the bowlers erred in length. Deliveries coming into him could be deftly flicked towards the onside or pulled away, if pitched short. This ‘judge-and-nudge’ approach drove the bowlers to severe exasperation as Williamson went on his merry way accumulating 165 runs, prior to perishing to a rare misjudgment of a delivery that was not quite there to be pulled.
Kane Williamson’s repertoire of stroke-making encompasses both sides of the wicket. Generally espousing the principles of orthodoxy, Williamson on song is a purist’s delight. Possessing a still head, Williamson is almost “statuesque” but for the customary tapping of the bat at the crease. Possessing a minimum of footwork, Williamson has the uncanny ability to not only spot the length early, but also to play the ball as late as the laws of Physics would dictate and the principles of commons sense would advocate. Driving with aplomb and cutting with finesse, Williamson is extremely strong on the off-side. Standing tall, he punches the ball through cover and extra-cover showing the full face of the bat. A high elbow and a short back-lift combine to create a near perfect straight drive that have friends and foes alike gasping in disbelief. The fact that he is blessed with the gift of exquisite timing accentuates his stroke play. His ability to pick the length early ensures that he is adept at playing the horizontal shots to great effect. Williamson’s pull shots are acts of controlled aggression with more often than not, the ball being placed on the ground rather than thumped into the air. Rarely does Williamson get under the ball to send it soaring into the stands. However in the shorter version of the game, William has displayed a refreshing propensity to pull out the big shots, albeit with judiciousness as an able ally. Competent at using the flick shot to his advantage, Williamson executes this stroke with competence and class. Supremely balanced at the crease, Williamson allows the delivery to come onto the bat before guiding, directing, placing, or driving it.
When playing spin, Williamson uses his feet to great effect. Whether it be sashaying down the track to execute an on-drive/flicking the ball past the mid wicket region, or staying back deep at the crease to late cut the ball through backward point and third man, Williamson shows great resilience in playing both with and against the spin. Just to prove his all-round ability he also uses the sweep shot to solid results. A very visible attribute of Williamson’s batting is a pair of incredibly soft hands. Not bother to lean too much into any shot one hardly sees this compact batsman falling over while playing a shot. A veritable master at rotating the strike, Williamson is a busy batsman who ensures that irrespective of the situation the scoreboard always keeps ticking for his side.
Kane Williamson’s greatest asset is not his shot making ability, but a seemingly infinite degree of obdurate tenacity. His application at the crease makes him a role model for any youngster aspiring to make it big at the theatre of Test match Cricket. Embodying grit and confidence, Williamson oozes character every time he strides to the batting crease. His virtually non-existent celebration each time he clocks up a century bears ample testimony to the price he puts on his wicket and the hunger he nurtures for accumulating runs. It is his character which emboldens the spirit of his team mates and endears him to the neutrals.
Kane Williamson has it in him to carve out a name as New Zealand’s next Bert Sutcliffe or Glenn Turner. A rock solid temperament lends credence to the fact that this youngster is not going to be unduly perturbed by the weight of enormous expectations that is currently being foisted upon his able shoulders. The third highest century maker for New Zealand (following John Wright and Ross Taylor) currently approaches each Test Match innings as an exercise in Zero-based Budgeting. Past glories are forgotten and future adulations not given a thought. All causes and consequences for this batsman remain confined to the present. All that matters is the 22 yards that separate Kane Williamson from a hungry adversary armed with a red cherry in hand and running at with intent – an intent that is sure of locking horns an equally strong intensity.
Meanwhile the cricketing world waits and watches with bated breath……