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ICC Champions Trophy 2017: How humble team man Kane Williamson became one of the world's finest batsmen

The Independent logo The Independent 1/06/2017 Richard Edwards

<span style="font-size:13px;">Williamson will be captaining New Zealand for the Champions Trophy (AFP/Getty Images)</span> © Provided by Independent Print Limited Williamson will be captaining New Zealand for the Champions Trophy (AFP/Getty Images) “As long as there was someone there prepared to work with him – and sometimes he had coaches on their knees – he would be at the ground and in the nets,” says James Pamment, the part-Yorkshire, part-Kiwi coach of Northern Districts.

There’s no shortage of bowlers who know exactly how those coaches felt when faced with a New Zealander who is intent on re-writing the country’s history books.

In the past three years, Kane Williamson has emerged as a batsman every bit as impressive as three players commonly regarded as the best in the world. More understated than Virat Kohli, Joe Root and Steve Smith, there’s no great secret behind Williamson’s remarkable rise.

In fact, Pamment - a contemporary of Darren Gough in Yorkshire age-group sides before moving to Auckland at the age of 18 – baulks at any suggestion that Williamson possesses some kind of special talent.

“His results and record to date are outstanding for someone so young but he’s not special, he’s a just a hardworking, well-balanced, humble team man,” he says.

Ranked second in the world Test rankings, ninth in the one-day equivalent and third in the T20 rundown, it’s Williamson’s consistency across all three formats that sets the 26-year-old apart.

New Zealand’s opponents on Friday will be particularly wary of him, with memories of his winning six in a one-wicket win for the hosts against the Aussies at Eden Park in the last World Cup in 2015, still painfully fresh in their memories.

While the whole of Auckland erupted, Williamson allowed himself a quick fist pump before heading off to the sanctuary of the changing rooms.

“I think that’s why he’s such a popular cricketer here,” former New Zealand all-rounder, Dion Nash, tells The Independent. “He’s just such a modest, likeable kind of guy. That’s why he’s such a popular captain too – he has so much respect in that dressing room.”

Williamson was a natural choice for the New Zealand captaincy in April 2016, after previously skippering the one-day and T20 side following the retirement of Brendon McCullum two months previously. He had long been earmarked for the role having skippered New Zealand under-19s at the age of just 17.

That was a mark of both his maturity and the esteem that he was held in his home country. The fact that he has made the step-up from every level look relatively easy is also testimony to a technique that is among the most immaculate in the world game.

“He had the ability to work out very quickly what it was all about,” says Pamment. “He built a very sound technical base with his father. When you start working with young kids and they show a thirst for learning, then it’s very easy for those guys working with Kane to help him construct a very sound technical base.

“He has always had that but the thing that sets him apart is his thirst for knowledge – he never stops asking questions. It’s that knowledge and his appetite for work that has allowed him to get to where he is.”

<div class="dnd-widget-wrapper context-sdl_editor_representation type-image atom-align-undefined" style="font-size:13px;"><div class="dnd-caption-wrapper">e 26-year-old has excelled in all three formats of the game (AFP/Getty Images)</div><div></div></div> © Provided by Independent Print Limited

e 26-year-old has excelled in all three formats of the game (AFP/Getty Images)
Williamson’s achievements have already drawn predictable comparisons with Martin Crowe, another New Zealander who made the art of batting look ridiculously simple. Williamson equalled Crowe’s Kiwi record of 17 Test centuries back in March, when he scored 175 against South Africa in Hamilton.

And it was Crowe – who died in March of last year following a lengthy battle with cancer – who perfectly summed up Williamson’s rare ability as a young cricketer. 

“Williamson has that X-factor, which no one can quite pin down,” he wrote on Cricinfo 12 months before his death. “He didn’t just score runs, he created masterpieces. Huge centuries, on a regular basis, came from a young mind that could see what no other around him could see. He was very normal, yet in his mental playground he saw way beyond the pale.”

That kind of praise from a batsman afforded almost god-like status in his home country, could have gone to Williamson’s head. As it was, it merely boosted his appetite to add to the tally of runs described so poetically by Crowe. Successful spells in county cricket with both Gloucestershire and Yorkshire also illustrate his chameleon-like ability to adapt his game to unfamiliar conditions.

“I don’t think we’ve ever seen a more complete player,” says Nash. “When I grew up thinking about Crowe, you admired him so much because he pulled it out when the team needed it most. Kane is exactly the same.

© Provided by Independent Print Limited “Probably the most important thing, though, is the confidence he then brings to the rest of the side. He’s now very much seen as being a Richie McCaw kind of figure in New Zealand sport.”

In a country obsessed with rugby, there can be no higher praise. A win against Australia would be the clearest signal yet that the quiet man of world cricket is about to help raise New Zealand to the next level.

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