Whenever New Zealand go into a huddle to celebrate a wicket or victory, one player invariably disappears into it. But it is the smallest member of the team who has been the batting backbone that has allowed the hosts to dominate India in this series.
It might come as a surprise that Kane Williamson was has been a brilliant athlete from a young age. So impressed was his early rugby coach that he was confident his ward would one day play for the All Blacks. It is hard to tell but the nation’s summer sport has definitely gained immensely.
There is no doubt the 23-year-old is a huge talent, but it is his temperament and the ability to step aside and let his teammates take the accolades that has stood. He kicked off his Test career with a century on debut in Ahmedabad. While his century that rallied the Kiwis in the Auckland Test, skipper Brendon McCullum, who scored a double, lavished praise on the youngster for keeping him going thanks to his understanding of the game.
Williamson repeatedly step in to to rally the Kiwis in the ODIs. India’s bowlers were rendered helpless against his superb backfoot play and footwork, scoring without taking much risk. The only time he tried something fancy, flicking Zaheer Khan early in his knock to be out cheaply, New Zealand were bundled out for 105.
Dave Johnston, who has coached Williamson since he was 10, is not surprised at all that his ward is going from strength to strength. “He was pretty much born to the game,” he told HT. “He’s an especially good learner, hard-working even at a young age. And he always had the patience.”
What impressed Johnston was that Williamson was a natural athlete.”He has played all sorts of sports – basketball, volleyball, football, rugby. He is a pretty well-coordinated sportsman.”
A prolific scorer since he was young, he is happy to stay a student. After scoring a century on debut, against India in Ahmedabad in 2010, he still came and discussed the techniques of Rahul Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar. “We still do that. He likes Hashim Amla, and likes to set up the game like him.”
His ability to take success and failure in his stride has remained the same. And that quality, Johnston believes, will elevate him to captaincy in the near future. He narrated a small incident to explain Williamson’s unselfishness.
It happened when he was around 12. He had scored a couple of hundreds when his father, who was the coach, reversed the batting order. Coming in to bat at No 8 with his team in serious trouble, he not only revived his team, he went on to complete a century with the last man. “As they walked off the field, he let the No 11 batsman leave the field first. That showed his quality as a person. For him, it’s always about the team. He knew from an early age what was important.”