Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Williamson will be one of New Zealand's greats

Sometimes players have something indefinable about them. You could call it an aura, but that's too grand a term for a thoroughly unglamorous batsman, but one who could end his career amongst his country's greats.

Some players get selected because of their stats, because they've got mountains of runs in domestic cricket; some because of their obvious talent, despite no great returns; and some because of a hunch. Graeme Hick was one of the former, making 50 First-class centuries before his Test début. Sachin Tendulkar made his Test début at 16, after precious few First-class games, because he had such obvious talent. Perhaps the most most well known examples of the hunch approach were Marcus Trescothick and Michael Vaughan, both of whom were talented without ever looking exceptional, but were plucked out of county cricket into the England team, with tremendous success.

Kane Williamson is a mix of all three approaches. He's been around the New Zealand team for a couple of years now, so it's easy to forget that he's only 22. He made his Test debut at the age of 20, picked partly because of 1428 runs at 46.06 in his First-class career, and partly based on his talent and a hunch that he had the temperament for Test cricket.

He certainly started well, with 131 on début  in India, and 69 in his second Test. After that start, he averaged  68 from three innings, and since then he has 959 runs at 29.06 from 18 Tests. Yet, despite his début he hasn't missed a Test. That's probably because, in a rare piece of good thinking in New Zealand cricket, they've backed their hunch, recognised that they're dealing with a young player who will have ups and downs.

He's had a couple of significant ups recently. His century in Columbo was a crucial part of a rare New Zealand away Test win, and today he played an early contender for best ODI innings of the year, with a commanding and controlled 145* (136). Despite generally being thought of as mainly a Test player, his knock today took his average to 37.38 in ODIs, significantly higher than his Test average.

It's his composure and ability to hit the gaps that made Williamson's innings so good. He came in early after the loss of a wicket and accelerated through his innings, always knowing what sort of total to aim for, and finished with a six. In his knock, he scored 15 fours, all around the park, showing the intellgence to get low and pull du Plessis' skiddy leg breaks for a couple of fours, and whenever the bowlers erred too full he drove with timing and placement.

The Williamson hunch may take a while longer to pay off consistently in all formats, but when it does he's got a chance of taking almost all the New Zealand batting records. At 22, he may have fifteen more years at the top, and the chance to make himself one of New Zealand's all time greats. Stephen Felming's 7172 runs and Martin Crowe's 17 Test hundreds may be safe for now, but one man has a great shot of taking them. Just wait.

1 comment:

  1. Careful, after he got a double century on debut I thought Matthew Sinclair would be a New Zealand great. Williamson though bats with a maturity well beyond his years, so I agree, we should expect big things from him. Dare I say it, he is the only New Zealand batsman who I could see being capable of making a triple century in a test.