Martin Guptill sat on his haunches after being run out in the final ball of the ICC World Cup 2019 final at Lord’s. He had failed to take that extra run in the last ball of the Super Over that would have made New Zealand the new and first time World Cup champions. It was not to be, unfortunately.
The hearts of Kiwis and their million fans lay shattered all across the world as the Super Over was tied and England won on technical grounds. New Zealand didn’t lose the pulsating final. And yet the World Cup eluded them. It was unjust. It was soul-crushing. Unable to comprehend what had just transpired, most of the New Zealand players looked shell-shocked.
But their captain quietly addressed the press conference, a wry smile on his face. Lesser mortals would have had a hard time even expressing their emotions in such a state. Lesser mortals have broken down in similar situations. It makes them only human.
But that man Kane. He is made of different mettle.
Undoubtedly, Kane Williamson must be hurting after losing out on a World Cup trophy after coming so close. But Kane Williamson knows he can’t break. He mustn’t. For his team. For his country.
All through the second innings of the high-octane final, in fact, the game ebbed and flowed continuously. But Williamson remained a picture of composure throughout. When Trent Boult stepped on the boundary ropes after taking a catch, he shrugged and smiled. When the ball deflected off Stokes’ bat in the final over to go the boundary, he raised his hands in frustration but never let things go overboard.
Even after the heartbreaking loss, Williamson kept his emotions under check. He addressed the media and answered all the questions; some with a chuckle even. As the final presentations were done with, he walked back to the dressing room, leading his broken colleagues with him; quietly applauding them for a job well done.
His heart must have been shattered too. But there was no one to console him. Perhaps he didn’t need anyone.
That man Kane. He is from a different universe.
About halfway through the ICC World Cup 2019, three men were dominating the headlines – Shakib-al-Hasan, Rohit Sharma and David Warner. All three were dominating attacks in style and remained the leading run-scorers of the edition right till the end. Their respective fans were in ecstasy. Countless online polls had been conducted in the last week of the tournament, trying to predict who among the three would be adjudged with the ‘Man of the tournament’ award.
But away from all the ballyhoo, one batsman was quietly, and in his unassuming ways, accumulating runs throughout the tournament. He ended up with 578 runs in 9 innings at an average of 82.57 along with 2 hundreds and 2 fifties. He was not in the top three scorers list in the World Cup, but Kane Williamson’s runs were of paramount significance to his team. That’s because the next best scorer for New Zealand in this World Cup was Ross Taylor with 350 runs. Then there was Jimmy Neesham with 232 runs. No other batsman in the team got past 200 runs.
With Martin Guptill having a horror tournament and the likes of Tom Latham, Colin Munro, Colin De Grandhomme and others not being able to contribute consistently, Williamson, effectively, carried his team’s batting unit all the way to the semi-final. It wasn’t a shock, then, that it was Williamson who won the Player of the Tournament trophy.
What adds weight to Kane Williamson’s tally of runs is that he now has the most runs by a captain in a World Cup, going past Mahela Jayawardene’s 548 in the 2007 World Cup in West Indies. Leading from the front, perhaps, could not have a better example.
He scored 67 crucial runs when the ball was not coming on to the bat in the semi-final against India. He took his team home against South Africa with an unbeaten hundred for the ages. He arrested the collapse against the West Indies and produced a classy 148 that eventually took his team to victory.
That man Kane.
There was never an instance of fist-pumping, chest-thumping or angry leaps of joy in his performances. He came. He batted. And he scored runs when his team needed him. Plain and simple.
Williamson’s batting might not have the lazy elegance of Rohit Sharma or the flamboyance of David Warner. But time and again he has shown the world how simple the art of batting is. He has shown the price one should accord to their wicket. He has shown the value of sticking around, swallowing one’s ego when the bowler is having the better of you and not giving in.
Williamson’s batting has been an absolute master class in this World Cup. He thrived under pressure and quietly went about his job.
Had fortune favored his team, Williamson would have been the one holding the World Cup trophy aloft today. Perhaps he will not get another chance to do so again. Cricket can be cruel that way. But it’s unlikely that he would be obsessing over it.
Because he has a job at hand. Because the next time his team will be in trouble, Williamson would be there at the crease; taking the blows, quietly accumulating runs and bailing the team out of trouble. He would also be marshaling his resources astutely; some of his decisions will pay off some won’t. But he will carry on, unassumingly. Like he always has.
That man Kane. He is something special. Isn’t he?