Williamson - The Kane of New Zealand

Williamson - The Kane of New Zealand
Image Source: @GettyImages

Williamson - The Kane of New Zealand

“Kane is so highly ranked in the world, so it’s no surprise that he is seriously highly ranked in New Zealand too. Probably our best player and when you combine leadership with it, I think we can safely say so,” said Ian Smith after New Zealand had stunned India in the semifinal of World Cup 2019. “I was a great friend of Martin Crowe, a buddy of mine, who is no longer with us. I think even Martin would have acknowledged that Kane is pretty special, and it’s hard to deny that.”

Incidentally, Martin Crowe had written an article for Espncricinfo in 2015 titled ‘The serenity of Kane Williamson’, describing Kane Williamson’s batting and the cricketer that he is (I am going to mention a bit about what he wrote in this article later on and would also recommend you to read the article). “Imagine a World Cup winner, a hero, a man at the height of his powers showing the world what he did to get there: the sacrifices, the years of hard work, the whole journey. Imagine who will be the one, or the group of players, who will lift that trophy on behalf of a proud nation? Imagine who that person would be.” he wrote. “For me, I imagine it to be a young, normal, grounded person. He is humble, intelligent, and he lives his life in the moment he is in. He doesn't fret or worry, he doesn't lash out or criticise, he doesn't seek anything except to do a job, the one he was born to do. He is Kane Williamson, from a quiet, serene seaside town called Tauranga.”

Kane Williamson has his quirks like all the best batsmen with his constant bat flip and has a zen-like presence at the crease. His technique is sharp, he plays the ball later than any other batter in the world, right under his eyes, which is why he plays dab to the third man region more often than not and has made that shot his own. Whatever Kane does with the bat, whether it is the longest format or the shortest one, everything is pure timing and class, no brute power. “While an extremely busy player, it's his quiet defence that stands out. The ball is met with a cushion in his hand, his framework right behind the line, his head staring the action down. In a Test he will make the bowler pick up, in a one-dayer, he will slightly angle and delay the stroke and deflect to behind square for a run. The risk is minuscule, the effect is huge in the long run. The bowler has to go wider or straighter than off stump.” described Crowe in his article. “With width and length to exploit, Williamson is in his element with a back-foot punch to rival those of Kumar Sangakkara and Sachin Tendulkar. His straight and leg-side play is astute and accurate. When the spinners come on, he jumps, skips and dances his way into the ball, creating power from seemingly nowhere”. Widely respected by this teammates and opposition alike, the limelight on Kane Williamson has been on a steady rise ever since the famous “tied final” of World Cup 2019.

The prodigy that was Kane Williamson played senior representative cricket at the age of 14 and first-class cricket at 16. He was coached by Pacey Depina who described Williamson as having "a thirst to be phenomenal – but not at anyone else's expense”. He reportedly scored 40 centuries before he left school. (source-Wikipedia)

International Debut

Kane made his ODI debut and test debut vs India, both in 2010 at the age of 20, and went on to make his T20I debut vs Zimbabwe in 2011 where he did not get to bat. His ODI career was off to a bad start with 2 ducks in the first two matches before scoring his maiden ODI century vs Bangladesh in his 5th match. However, his test debut was off to an impressive start, scoring a century in the very first innings at Ahmedabad and thereby becoming the youngest centurion in New Zealand cricket history and the eighth New Zealand player to score a century on Test debut.

His career since the debut until now (22.02.2021):

Tests:
Kane Williamson is the third-highest run-getter for New Zealand with 7115 runs at an average of 54.31 to his name, only 264 runs behind Ross Taylor who is at the top with 7379 runs. He has 24 centuries and 32 half-centuries from 83 test matches since his debut in 2010. Kane has played with 41 test matches at home with an average of 65.31(top-scored 18 innings out of 66) and 42 away (including UAE vs Pakistan) with an average of 45.58.  

Here is how Kane Williamson has fared in each of the countries he has played in,

Top Score= No. of times he top-scored a Test innings

 

Kane has a century in every country except South Africa. He has been involved in memorable wins away from home vs Pakistan and Sri Lanka. In 2014, New Zealand’s series-levelling victory against Pakistan in UAE was a memorable one. After being down 0-1, New Zealand managed to draw the 2nd match and needed to win the last one to draw the 3-match series. After Pakistan won the toss and put on 351 on the board, Kane smashed 192(244) and put on 297 runs for the 2nd wicket with then skipper Brendon McCullum who blazed away to 202(188), as New Zealand piled up 690 eventually winning the match by an innings and 80 runs.

4 Years later in 2018, New Zealand did one better, this time with Williamson at the helm, beating Pakistan 2-1. Kane was the top scorer of the series with 386 runs, which included 89 and 139 in the decider.

In the 2012 tour of Sri Lanka, after being down 0-1, New Zealand needed to win the 2nd match to level the 2-match series.  New Zealand were 14-2, when Kane Williamson 135(305) and Ross Taylor 142(306) were involved in a partnership of 262 runs for the 3rd wicket as New Zealand put on 412 on the board and went on to win the match by 167 runs and level the series 1-1.

Despite his class and infallible technique, Kane averages 35.46 in India, 30.88 in England 26.71 in Sri Lanka and 21.17 in South Africa. However, there are a number of factors involved here. This is how Kane Williamson has played in each of his tours:

In India, 3 in 2010, 2 in 2012 and 2 in 2016 (he missed the 2nd test with an injury).

In Sri Lanka, 2 in 2012 and 2 in 2019 (a gap of nearly 7 years). 

In South Africa, 2 tests in 2012-13 tour and 1 in 2016 (the other one being rained out).

Similarly, he has played 2 tests each in England in 2013 and 2015. 

This gives us an idea that Kane has barely played more than 2 tests in a series in the above-mentioned countries and also barely had the time to get acclimatized to the conditions. Also batting at no. 3 means that he is virtually an opener every time he bats. With Kane at No.3, New Zealand’s average opening partnership, barring the 148 in Eng 2015 and 118 in India 2016, has been abysmal:

                1st inn      2nd inn

vs IND      20             32.5

vs ENG     20.67       9.25

vs SL        24.5          19.33

vs SA        7.25         13.33

Anyone who has watched and admired Kane Williamson’s batting or has followed his career would know that these statistics do not justify his calibre. The number of tests played by Kane per year is as follows:-

Year

Matches

Year

Matches

2010

3

2017

7

2011

5

2018

7

2012

10

2019

8

2013

11

2020         

4

2014

9

   

2015

8

   

2016

10

   

 

Kane has played a considerably lesser amount of test matches per year and that is unlikely to change with New Zealand scheduled to play a meagre 4 test matches (depending on the outcome of ongoing WTC). So, whether or not he improves his numbers in the four countries above depends on the number of matches that he plays, the amount of runs he accumulates in the 2 or 3 tests in each series, whether or not he is able to acclimatise to the conditions in the limited matches and time and also the fact that his reflexes are bound to slow down with age (he is already 30 years old). If he does get going cricket fans around the world will be in for a classy treat.



White ball career:

Kane Williamson has 6173 runs with 13 hundreds and 39 fifties from 151 ODIs. For the 78 matches that he has captained New Zealand, he holds the record for most centuries(7) for a New Zealand captain, joint with Stephen Fleming who did it in 218 matches. The highest point of his career was the 2019 World Cup where he won the Man of the Tournament. He scored 578 runs and currently holds the record for the most number of runs by a captain in a single World Cup. What stood out was the way he led New Zealand in the semi-final and final of the world cup. In the Semi-final against India, the kiwis read the pitch well and Kane Williamson led from the front with a 67 run knock and along with Ross Taylor’s 74 helped New Zealand set a target of  240 runs on a tricky pitch which helped them beat India by 18 runs and enter the final of the World Cup for the 2nd consecutive time in 4 years. His astute captaincy, his calmness to hold on to the catch of Jadeja, who played a brilliant fighting knock of 77, under tremendous pressure and his calculated knock in a world cup semi-final speak a great deal about the mental toughness and character of Kane. What followed in the World cup final was drama with Dharmasena’s “six” on overthrows and England winning the tied final on boundary count. While everyone remembers the grace with which Kane handled the result, one might not remember Kane’s move to bowl 10 consecutive overs of Colin De Grandhomme who conceded just 25 runs with a wicket and two maidens, an example of some street-smart captaincy.

In an interview with Cricbuzz that premiered on May 20, 2020, Harsha Bhogle asked Kane Williamson how difficult it was to handle the result of the final, “To be honest, I am still waiting to work out what exactly it was, we didn’t get the fruits, but upon reflection, it was a pretty spectacular game to be a part of.” he said. “You are trying to make sense of it but it was very difficult to do. At the end of it, you try to take the game to better places.”

In 63 T20 Internationals that he has played, Williamson has 1735 runs at an average of 33 and a Strike Rate of 125 to his name. His captaincy career began in an impressive style with the 2016 T20 World Cup in India in which New Zealand reached the semi-finals for the first time since 2007, the most memorable match being the one where they thrashed hosts India by 47 runs while defending 126.  He is the fastest New Zealand player to score 1000 runs (in 34 innings). Kane’s T20 game has been on a steady rise. In 2018 IPL where he led SRH to the final in the absence of David Warner, he scored 735 runs at an average of 52.5 and a Strike Rate of 142. His improvement was on show again vs India in 2020, following up his 51(26), when he set the stage on fire with 95 from just 48 balls although New Zealand went down in the Super Over. Kane Williamson’s versatility was on display in IPL 2020 where he batted in the middle order and played crucial cameos for SRH. He stepped up in the crunch games with an unbeaten 50(44) in the eliminator that SRH won and a fighting 67(45) in the Qualifier that SRH lost by 17 runs. “He is like a surgeon with the blade, it's never brutal the way he does things, it's just pleasing on the eye, Kane Williamson is such a good player,” commented Pommie Mbangwa on air, in the Qualifier 2 vs Delhi Capitals of IPL 2020, perfectly describing Kane’s batting. Not to forget, he came out to open with a hamstring injury and played a cameo of 29(19) against KKR, one of the many times that once again proved why he is an excellent team man.

Leading a team to the knockouts of the World Cup is no small achievement for a nation like New Zealand. Kane Williamson has been praised by the legends of the game as well as the current cricketers. But his career and contribution to New Zealand cricket so far have been beautifully surmised by his former teammate and his predecessor, Brendon McCullum. “In my mind, he is the world's best, Kane Williamson. And it's not derogatory to any of the other big players around the world and the expectations they have on them and how they deliver. To me, what he's done for New Zealand cricket - not just his own performance, which is in a different stratosphere - but he's taken everyone else with him, and their career numbers have improved, their performances have improved. That's the mark of not just a quality player but a quality leader. The all-round package of that to me is what makes him the world's best.” Brendon McCullum was quoted as saying by Spark Sport

 

In the two World Cups that he has led and by taking New Zealand to the top of ICC test rankings, Kane Williamson has taken New Zealand cricket forward, albeit with a captaincy style different from McCullum. He is 30 years old and this decade might well be the last of his cricketing career. On his wish list will be winning tests overseas and winning a World Cup for his country that they fell short of winning by the barest of margins. If Williamson makes the next decade his own, it will do a world of good for New Zealand cricket and cricket in general.

 

Some notable Stats of Williamson:-
 

Highest % of Team Runs in Test Wins:-
(~4000 runs in wins)

27.8% Bradman
19.1% Williamson
18.7% Steve Smith
18.3% Inzamam
18.2% Younis Khan
17.8% Sangakkara
16.9% Joe Root

 

Highest % of International innings with 50+ score:-

38.1% Virat Kohli
35.8% Vivian Richards
34.8% Joe Root
34.5% Kane Williamson
34.2% Jacques Kallis
33.9% Sunil Gavaskar
33.8% Sachin Tendulkar


Avg Batting Control across IPL while being one of the Top2 scorers in the match:-
(min 1k IPL runs)


Kane: 82%
Kohli: 81.9%
M Hussey: 81.9%
Rahane: 81.6%
Rohit: 81%

 

Highest ODI Average in unsuccessful chases when Target was 250 or below:-
(min. 400 runs)


68.2: Kane Williamson
40.8: Michael Bevan
39.4: Sean Williams
34.8: Chanderpaul

 

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