14 Dec 2018

'Run machine' Williamson has just one major point to prove

4:55 pm on 14 December 2018

By Matt Richens*

New Zealand captain Kane Williamson  with teammates after their victory against Pakistan on the third and final Test cricket match between Pakistan and New Zealand at the Sheikh Zayed International Cricket Stadium in Abu Dhabi on December 7, 2018. AFP

Kane Williamson with teammates after their victory against Pakistan in Abu Dhabi. Photo: AFP

Look for the 28-year-old run machine to take his game to a new level this summer.

The runs will come, they always do from Williamson's meticulously fine-tuned technique, but should he add a big tick to his captaincy game, he will be the complete player.

Some have celebrated his captaincy already though he's has been enjoying the fruits of Brendon McCullum and Mike Hesson's labour.

And comparing him with the brash, 'have-a-crack' McCullum is unfair, as McCullum was one out of the box as far as skippers go.

He's far from a bad captain but his batting and gully catching have set his own bar so high it's fair to expect big things from his captaincy too.

We got a good trailer into the Williamson captaincy movie in Abu Dhabi last week when his side threw caution to the wind against Pakistan.

Their aggressive day-five mentality and the side's willingness to risk defeat in search of their first away series win over Pakistan in 49 years was more than great.

More please.

McCullum would have done it, some skippers wouldn't have. I'm looking at you Joe Root.

Test wins are so hard to come by and away series even more so, but losing a game from even a level position will get you vilified by the cricket supporting public in New Zealand.

It's a tough balance.

With 40-days of cricket ahead of the Black Caps this home summer, how well Williamson has developed in charge will be clear to see by autumn.

His side will go into all three series as favourites. Starting with a pretty poor Sri Lanka side and ending with a Bangladesh side who struggle in New Zealand, this should be a golden summer for Williamson's men.

Both should be routs and, provided the dreary current weather doesn't curtail plans, New Zealand should win at least four of the five home tests this summer.

Then there's India in a white ball series in conditions similar to those expected at next year's Cricket World Cup in the UK.

While the Indians struggle on our green test pitches, on the flatter One-Day and T20 wickets they're phenomenal.

How Williamson matches up to the very tough to like Virat Kohli will speak volumes.

Rumour has it he's a much better person, but how he stacks up against him in runs and captaincy will help take him to the next level as a leader.

His softly spoken, no-fuss approach to everything, while very different to McCullum, epitomises what we love in our cricketers. He does his job, he does it well and all of a sudden he's world class.

His captaincy is trending the same way.

And it needs to be enjoyed and celebrated; what Australia would give now for someone who can not only score runs, lead well and dominate with his actions all while not being a dick.

Williamson's only real cricketing weakness is his lack of faith in his own bowling. But among his phenomenal numbers, match-winning ability and dogged batting determination, that can be forgiven.

* @mattrichens has been a sports journalist for more than 12 years, though he reckons his cricketing claim to fame is once bowling Chris Cairns out while at primary school. Cairns was wearing a Larry the Lamb costume and couldn't see.

*The New Zealand home summer starts tomorrow at the Basin Reserve with the first of five home tests, this one against Sri Lanka. Follow RNZ for news and updates.

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