Arguably, the top four batsmen in the world currently are Joe Root, Steve Smith, Virat Kohli and Kane Williamson. All of them lead their national sides in at least one format and the remarkable consistency that they have displayed in their batting has been a treat to watch. They are often referred to as the ‘Fab Four’ of world cricket.
While the three mentioned up top were considered batting mainstays of their teams and the go-to players in case the batting order collapsed, Williamson did not really belong to that category initially. The batting mainstay of New Zealand was a certain Brendon McCullum while the middle-order had Ross Taylor. But all that has changed in the past couple of years. Williamson has come into his own.
In the 2015 World Cup, when hosts New Zealand and Australia faced off, Australia were skittled out for a below-par score. New Zealand thought they had an easy target but Mitchell Starc breathed fire and almost won the game for Australia. Williamson though, held his ground and saw off the scary spell to eventually win the game for New Zealand with a six. Though his talent was discovered way before that match, that performance made people see him in a new light. He demonstrated his ability to soak up pressure and win games when it was seemingly impossible to do so.
And that is exactly what he has done in this edition of the Indian Premier League. The pressure on Williamson was immense. David Warner had just been banned for the infamous ball-tampering scandal and he had been appointed captain. This happened mere days before the tournament was due to start. Now, he can look back at that moment and thank his stars that Warner is out of the equation.
Not really seen as a T20 batsman, Williamson has proved all his doubters wrong with his scintillating displays of batting and captaincy this season in the IPL. He has scored 625 runs at a stunning average of 62.5 and the manner in which he has gone about his business is the best part. Not once has he played the reverse-scoop or a switch-hit to get boundaries. He has banked solely on his ability to thread the gaps and play traditional shots to get his runs at will. He, along with KL Rahul has shown that one need not be flashy or very powerful to hit those sixes.
His captaincy has also been exemplary. He has led the Sunrisers Hyderabad to a guaranteed top two spot in the points table and has enabled the team to experiment with a few changes in the last few games of the group stages. SRH was always known to have a good bowling attack but their ability to defend low scores has seen a massive surge this year. Williamson has rotated his bowlers admirably and has believed in them, even when they were taken for runs in a couple of games. The extra responsibility has seemingly got the best out of him and New Zealand will surely be delighted.
Last night’s loss to RCB was unfortunate for the Sunrisers but again their captain took them as far as he could with a brilliant 81 off 42 balls. He did not receive regular support from the other end but kept going and the self-belief was there for all to see. And to think that Williamson probably would not even have made the playing XI if Warner was still around.