16 Nov

Kane Williamson: the quiet captain standing in England’s way

first_imgNew Zealand cricket team Read more Share on Twitter Share on LinkedIn Share on Facebook The final star has been New Zealand’s shining light for five years. Kane Williamson is a wonderful cricketer in a very quiet way. In this World Cup, on two-paced pitches, he has been supernaturally consistent. The only way to stop him making 40 is by a fluke: he had cruised to 27 against England when he was run out by the flick of a fast bowler’s fingertips.Williamson specialises in doing just enough. “He’s calculating,” his coach from Tauranga Boys’ College, Josh Syms, once told the New Zealand Herald. “He boils things down to nuts and bolts. He’ll take the emotion out of it and ask: ‘If I do this, what will be the outcome?’” Or, as a parody of the celebrated Barack Obama slogan put it, Yes he Kane. He finished off a cliffhanger against South Africa by hitting a six to reach his century, followed by a four to seal the match. He set up a cliffhanger against West Indies by making an ODI career-best of 148, which, thanks to Guptill’s travails, had begun with Williamson facing the second ball of the day. In the semi-final against India, he held his team together with 67. And then, when the chips were down, he calmly took two catches off skiers – the kind of chance that stays in the air long enough to encourage the fielder to have an existential crisis. Williamson did not just hold the catches, he held his nerve, which is half the job at the very top of sport.Of today’s four great middle-order batsmen, Williamson is the only one to carry his excellence into captaincy. Kohli, for all his intensity, is often over-reactive, placing a fielder where the ball has just gone. Joe Root, likeable as he is, shies away from his destiny as a Test No 3 and makes runs more consistently in one-day games, when he is not the boss.Steve Smith allowed the business with the sandpaper to happen on his watch and lost the Australia captaincy as a result. On Thursday, skilfully though he batted, it was striking that Smith kept showing his annoyance with his teammates, playing the prima donna rather than the leader.Williamson bears a heavier burden than any of them, as a captain who is also a talisman. He does not have a Rohit Sharma scoring hundreds so he does not have to. In this World Cup, Williamson has made 30% of New Zealand’s runs with the bat. A slight figure, only 5ft 9in, he carries a nation on his shoulders. Graham Gooch, taking on New Zealand in Richard Hadlee’s day, famously said it was like facing the World XI at one end and Ilford 2nds at the other. You could say the same about bowling to the Kiwis of 2019. Their run rate throughout the tournament is 4.99 an over, lower than anyone’s, bar Afghanistan. They still have not reached 300 in an innings. Archer and Rashid the precious cogs in England’s World Cup machine How many stars do you need in a one-day cricket team? The great powers of the game – India, Australia and England – have six or seven each. But only one of that trio is still in the World Cup. The other team to make the final, New Zealand, have got there with about two and a half stars. Never mind the glamour, count the James Milners.So who are those stars? One is Trent Boult, the smiley assassin whose left-arm inswing took out Virat Kohli in the semi-final. The half is Lockie Ferguson, the up-and-coming fast bowler who appears to have been plucked from a school production of Journey’s End. Six weeks ago you would have added Martin Guptill, then New Zealand’s designated rocket-launcher, but he is now so short of runs he has become a specialist fielder. Support The Guardian Share on Pinterest The Spin: sign up and get our weekly cricket email. Cricket World Cup 2019center_img Topics … we have a small favour to ask. More people are reading and supporting The Guardian’s independent, investigative journalism than ever before. And unlike many new organisations, we have chosen an approach that allows us to keep our journalism accessible to all, regardless of where they live or what they can afford. But we need your ongoing support to keep working as we do.The Guardian will engage with the most critical issues of our time – from the escalating climate catastrophe to widespread inequality to the influence of big tech on our lives. At a time when factual information is a necessity, we believe that each of us, around the world, deserves access to accurate reporting with integrity at its heart.Our editorial independence means we set our own agenda and voice our own opinions. Guardian journalism is free from commercial and political bias and not influenced by billionaire owners or shareholders. This means we can give a voice to those less heard, explore where others turn away, and rigorously challenge those in power.We need your support to keep delivering quality journalism, to maintain our openness and to protect our precious independence. Every reader contribution, big or small, is so valuable. Support The Guardian from as little as $1 – and it only takes a minute. Thank you. Cricket And yet Williamson keeps on doing enough. In the composite team of this tournament, he is surely the captain. He has forged a team in his own image, despite having a hard act to follow in Brendon McCullum, the man who dared to introduce New Zealand to excitement. Williamson, who had been head boy at Tauranga, was in danger of being the goody-goody taking over from a pirate but he did not let that bother him. Rather than play McCullum-ball, he likes his team to be pragmatic. At Lord’s, the true heir to McCullum will be Eoin Morgan.A natural-born Test cricketer, playing the ball late, Williamson has become good enough at Twenty20 to captain Sunrisers Hyderabad. And he may be a nice guy but he is steely as a nail. Something else his school coach said lingers in the air. “He had a thirst to be phenomenal but not at anyone else’s expense.” Except, of course, his opponents’. Share via Email Since you’re here… Share on Messenger Share on WhatsApp features Reuse this contentlast_img

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