There was wind, there was cloud, there was rain…and there was Kane Williamson.
Calm, unhurried Kane Williamson. Not a superstar. Not creating a hype machine. Not someone who came out to massive applause and chants of “Kane, Kane”.
Just plain old Kane Williamson. New Zealand skipper and damn good batsman.
Not a star. On a day where a certain noted historian hit out at some of Indian cricket’s finest, even slamming a “superstar” culture, there was something poetically ironic about a Kane Williamson masterclass.
The much venerated late Martin Crowe called India’s Virat Kohli, Australia’s Steve Smith, England’s Joe Root and New Zealand’s Kane Williamson Test cricket’s “young Fab Four” in 2014. In a pantheon of such class, each of them has their own followers. But it is remarkable how different Williamson is from the rest.
He is decidedly no Smith. No brainfades around him, thank you very much. No Joe Root as well, no putting on fake beards to rile opposition players. And he is decidedly not Virat Kohli, not even close when compared with the cult of personality that the Indian captain enjoys.
Williamson is quiet. He is unremarkable. Against Australia in Edgbaston, you probably didn’t notice him at the beginning. Even though he threaded the gap via an absolutely delectable cover drive on the third ball he faced. Even though, he showed power and precision on the 11th delivery he faced which he pulled to the square-leg boundary.
Not a superstar
No, it was all Luke Ronchi. Giving himself room to hit sixes over extra-over. Slashing a six over third-man. A lofted straight drive for another six. That’s how the dice rolls nowadays. Power gets the hits. The traction. The sweet nothings of Williamson are only for the connoisseurs.
Even when he went down on one knee and swiped across the line for his first six, Williamson never looked inelegant for one moment. Most batsmen rely on pure power when they go slogging to cow-corner – in the Kiwi’s skipper’s case, even calling a shot of his a “slog” seems blasphemous.
And amidst that timing and precision, Williamson was no less explosive. His fifty took 61 balls, his 100 only another 35. He is supremely gifted with his shot-making abilities, his golden wrists can bisect the minutest of gap and yet, he remains under the radar. No leaping up in mid-air furiously to celebrate a hundred. Not even a smile. In Edgbaston, he even looked a trifle reluctant to take off his helmet when he got to the landmark.
Of course, New Zealand had to collapse after his dismissal. What better ways to showcase the importance of their captain’s knock? And yet again when they came out to bowl, they had Australia on the ropes. 53/3 with Steve Smith at the crease. But rain decided that Williamson’s first One-Day International century against the trans-Tasman rivals will only go down as a footnote.
But, no, not a word of protest from him at the post-match press conference. “I really appreciated the selfless behaviour that our middle and lower batters showed to go out there,” he said.
And about his own batting?
“I don’t know, some days it goes okay. Some days…”
As we have it, the Fab Four has warmed up considerably well. Century for Root. Tick. Century for Williamson. Tick. Steve Smith will get another chance. The ball is in your court now, Virat.