Kane Williamson: The understated superstar who could lead New Zealand to World Cup glory
The New Zealand captain is happy to let his cricket do the talking and will hope his side have plenty to say at the World Cup
Last Updated: 24/05/19 2:38pm
In August 2014, the late, great Martin Crowe made the kind of prediction that can so easily make a fool of a pundit as he labelled Virat Kohli, Joe Root, Steve Smith and Kane Williamson as Test cricket's "fabulous four".
The young quartet had shown enough in their careers to that point, Crowe asserted, to suggest that they would go on to captain their respective countries and establish themselves among the best batsmen of their generation.
Five years on and Crowe's oft-cited forecast has proven to be unerringly accurate.
But while Kohli, Root and Smith can regularly be seen smiling back at you from the cover of a magazine and their successes and failures are broadcast around the cricketing world as one would expect from a member of the Fab Four, Williamson pops up only when there is a match to be played.
What little you do hear from him suggests that Williamson is more than happy with this state of affairs but you have to wonder how a player universally acknowledged as one of the best of his era and arguably the best batsman his country has ever produced is able to maintain such a low profile.
It helps that, rightly or wrongly, New Zealand are considered a less glamorous side than India, Australia or England and Williamson has never been one to seek out the limelight. Quite the opposite and that has worked rather well for him up to this point.
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Williamson has been New Zealand captain for a little over three years, is within touching distance of Kohli at the top of the ICC's Test batting rankings and just out the top 10 in ODIs and T20Is and has scored more Test centuries for the Black Caps than anyone else.
He is an elite batsman across all formats of the game and at 28, there is plenty more still to come.
On the field at least, Williamson is a superstar.
The man he replaced as New Zealand skipper was another superstar. Brendon McCullum's impact on New Zealand cricket is undeniable, he was a phenomenal captain and his team played a fantastically entertaining brand of cricket.
McCullum's acclaim though was built on the fact that he was a brilliantly brutal batsman with the capacity to bludgeon a bowling attack into submission and take a game away from the opposition within the space of half an hour.
For all his elegance at the crease, Williamson is unlikely to ever excite a crowd in the way McCullum did. Statistically, Williamson beats his predecessor hands down in just about every category, but B-Mac was box office.
During his years in charge, New Zealand were a team in his image and in 2015 they powered their way to the World Cup final before coming unstuck against Australia.
Williamson is one of six players from the XI beaten in that game at the MCG in the squad for this summer's tournament, while a seventh, Tom Latham, was also in the 15 four years ago.
That the current side's style of play might be better described as adventurous than explosive is as much down to the loss of McCullum as anything else. Certainly with Martin Guptill, Colin Munro and Colin de Grandhomme in the squad, they don't lack for power.
A pace attack featuring Trent Boult, Tim Southee and Matt Henry packs a punch as well, while Ish Sodhi and Mitchell Santner between them offer a wicket-taking ability and the capability of stemming the flow of runs.
Meanwhile, a middle-order of Williamson, Ross Taylor and Tom Latham is arguably as strong as any in the tournament. Even if, as is feared, Latham is forced to miss the first couple of games of the tournament with a finger injury, New Zealand have more than adequate replacements at the ready.
Much like its captain, this is a squad that might not make too many headlines but there is no disputing its quality.
There is a good chance that come July 14 one of the Fab Four will be clutching the World Cup trophy and if Williamson goes one better than McCullum and takes New Zealand, cricket's perennial dark horses, to the crown then he may have no choice but to step into the limelight.
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