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How do you bowl at Kane Williamson?

Kane Williamson, this observer's choice of a player to watch during the ICC World T20
Kane Williamson, this observer's choice of a player to watch during the ICC World T20
©REUTERS / Action Images

Kane Williamson has a strike rate of 127.68 from 30 T20Is, higher than MS Dhoni, Tillakaratne Dilshan and Ross Taylor. In those 30 games he has cleared the rope only 10 times.

Williamson caresses the cricket ball, a timer rather than a bludgeoner. In an age of players such as David Warner and Ben Stokes who smite the ball for all they are worth, Williamson relies on touch and grace, yet he still scores at a better rate than more celebrated one-day players.  

He is the natural successor to Kumar Sangakkara, perhaps the most graceful of recent players and another, like Williamson, who seems to push rather than thwack the ball to the boundary. Along with Joe Root, Williamson is the best of the traditional type player who will be on show in the ICC World T20.

In a world of T20 glamour, Williamson’s calm and unfussed demeanour marks him out. That should not be taken for softness – anyone who has scored the runs he has cannot do so without a steely determination – but the quiet way he goes about his business is rarer these days. He reminds this observer of Rahul Dravid in that respect.

Williamson and Root, together with Steve Smith and Virat Kohli, are a golden quartet. In time, they may even come to rival the achievements of Ricky Ponting, Sachin Tendulkar, Jacques Kallis and Dravid, the last group of batsmen to dominate world cricket. That is a bold prediction but not an outrageous one.

Which of the four is currently the best is up for debate. Smith leads the Test match batting rankings, with Root second and Williamson third whilst Kohli is second in both the ODI and T20I rankings.

A golden quartet

Kane Williamson (New Zealand)

4,037 Test runs @ 49.23; 3,666 ODI runs @ 47.00; 844 T20I runs @ 36.70

Virat Kohli (India)

2,994 Test runs @ 44.03; 7,212 ODI runs @ 51.51; 1,369 T20I runs @ 52.65

Joe Root (England)

3,406 Test runs @ 54.94; 2,572 ODI runs @ 44.34; 345 T20I runs @ 34.50

Steve Smith (Australia)

3,852 Test runs @ 60.19; 2,082 ODI runs @ 40.04; 348 T20I runs @ 20.47


If pressed, this observer would pick Williamson as the best of the four. He is the only one in the top 10 of the rankings in all three formats and has the complete game. Where Smith has not yet mastered T20 and Kohli still has work to do in Tests, Williamson dominates all three formats.

He does so in his understated way. He is not flash at the crease, crouching low and impeccably still until the ball is delivered. He is an unrivalled driver of a cricket ball and plays spin and pace equally well. No attack has yet consistently had his number.

In an era of attacking batsmen, many of whom throw their hands through the line of the ball, what is noticeable about Williamson is how he judges angles to scythe the ball in to gaps. He is able to thread the ball through the field at will and is surely the best in the world at doing so.

When defending, he plays so softly and late with an angled bat that his edges often drop dead behind him.

He already has 13 Test match hundreds, including five in 2015. He has scored centuries where the ball spins in Sri Lanka and the UAE, where it is fast and bouncy in Australia and where it swings and seams in England. He will soon overtake the late Martin Crowe’s New Zealand record of 17 Test centuries.

In one-day cricket, Williamson has been just as effective, averaging 47 in One-Day Internationals with seven hundreds. With one wicket left against Australia in the World Cup game in Auckland last year, he memorably hit Pat Cummins for six to seal victory for his side. It was a brilliant display of coolness under pressure and resolve.

The World T20 will be a test though for New Zealand and Williamson. After the retirement of Brendon McCullum, Williamson is captaining the side, a role he has done on occasion but not regularly.

He is the antithesis to McCullum. Whereas New Zealand’s former captain was brash and ultra-aggressive at the crease, constantly innovative in his field placing, Williamson is a much calmer and less demonstrative character. It will be interesting to see how he will put his own stamp on the side.  

Maintaining his form whilst captaining will also be a challenge, one that Smith and Kohli have met with success and one that is also likely to face Root in time. Williamson, with his calm exterior and rational approach to the game, is well equipped to handle that challenge.

He should also find opening the batting in India to his liking and he started well by making a half-century in a warm-up game against England last week.

Opening the best place to bat in T20s in the subcontinent where the new ball comes on to the bat and the fast outfields give value for shots. He can play conventionally and his range of strokes should allow him to score freely. Williamson will be the prized New Zealand wicket.

In the immediate next four weeks, he will be pivotal to New Zealand’s chances in the World T20, but in the longer term his potential is endless. At 25 years-old, Williamson has not yet reached his peak and it would be no surprise to see him score 10,000 Test match runs.

It is not often you see a player touch the heights Williamson has at such an age and for the next decade, bowlers around the world will be faced with the same question: How do you bowl at Kane Williamson?

© Cricket World 2016