Looking back, 2008 Under-19 World Cup was a star-studded affair. From the 200 plus youngsters played in that tournament there were quite a few future international stars and even legends of the game.
There was the triumphant Indian team led by Virat Kohli and included Ravindra Jadeja and Manish Pandey, among others. Other teams were not much behind. There were players like Phillip Hughes, Josh Hazlewood, Steve Smith, Imad Wasim, Shan Masood, Steve Finn, and Andy Balbirnie-some of the current stars.
New Zealand also did not miss out. They were led a by young fellow, who was not even 18. Kane Williamson, despite the young age, led pretty well and New Zealand were eliminated at the semi-final stage by India.
But that did not stop Williamson’s growth. After some great performances for Northern Districts in New Zealand domestic cricket, he was selected for a Triangular Series in Sri Lanka and made his international debut two days after his 20th birthday against India.
Although the young lad scored a duck, New Zealand won the match by 200 runs. His Test debut against the same team few months later was much more memorable as he became just the 8th Kiwi batsman to score a Test hundred on debut. It came at Ahmedabad, an environment completely alien to Kane Williamson and gave an idea of his patience, grit, and determination which would become his trademark in days to come.
The next 10 years saw Kane Williamson pleasing everyone with his style of batting while scoring numerous runs for his team. Williamson has reached new heights regularly and already entered the top five run scorer category for New Zealand in all three formats of the game.
Although his batting style is in the classical mold, he has never faced much difficulty to adjust in limited-overs cricket and is a popular pick in various global T20 leagues. His close to 6500 Test runs with an average above 50 and 21 hundred, and 8000 runs in limited-overs cricket with 13 ODI centuries are testimony to that.
The man is famous for his calmness and determination. No wonder he knows how to perform in critical situations and take his team home. His top three Test scores all came in winning cause for New Zealand. His ability to perform at crunch situation has also benefitted his team multiple times in World Cup and other ICC tournaments where he has scored three hundred and maintained an average touching 60. A lot of credit for New Zealand’s consecutive World Cup final appearance should go to Williamson.
Williamson is also the captain of New Zealand team in all three formats post the retirement of Brendon McCullum and despite not having a very strong squad he has always maintained a healthy Test win percentage of 56.25 and won Test series against India, Pakistan, England, West Indies, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh at home. He has also recorded a series win against Pakistan in UAE.
Last year in a dramatic final in 2019 ODI World Cup Kane Williamson’s New Zealand lost to Eoin Morgan’s England. The result went against the Kiwis because of a ‘rule’. The result was not welcomed by many. The result created a huge buzz. But amid all hullaballoo if there was one person who stayed calm it was Kane Williamson. The losing captain impressed all with his dignity. “It is what it is, really. The rules are there at the start”, the Man of the Tournament Kane Williamson accepted the ‘loss’ with absolute grace although it was “very tough to swallow”.
New Zealand cricket team is currently ranked two and three in ICC Test and ODI rankings, respectively. Once the pandemic is over, captain Williamson would be keen to take his team to that elusive top position of both tables. With quite a few ICC events planned between 2021 to 2023, he can also eye them to add to his laurels and none of that will be called undeserving by fans or critics.
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