6 Mar 2019

Williamson's selfishness questionable - Bidwell

11:24 am on 6 March 2019

Opinion - Kane Williamson is a good cricketer.

New Zealand captain Kane Williamson leaves the field after scoring his double hundred.

New Zealand captain Kane Williamson leaves the field after scoring his double hundred. Photo: Photosport

In fact, by New Zealand standards, he's a great. Someone who might go down as the best we've ever had.

You can't be definitive about that type of thing. There's no way to adequately compare eras, bats, opponents, pitches or any of that carry on. Even numbers tell a distorted story.

You have to rely on the eye test and simply say that Williamson looks a fine player. As good, or better, as any of the elite batsmen of this generation.

Never mind some Mickey Mouse algorithm that purports to rank the great and the good of all time. We're all agreed Williamson can bat, and bat well.

But that doesn't make him a sacred cow. It doesn't mean he's infallible. It doesn't mean he didn't let himself down a bit on Saturday.

History will tell us Williamson finished 200 not out, as New Zealand declared their only innings of their Test match in Hamilton against Bangladesh at 715-6.

It was their highest innings total in Test cricket, Williamson's second Test double hundred and the highest individual Test score recorded by any batsman at Seddon Park.

The Black Caps went on to win the match by an innings and 52 runs, with more than a day to spare.

It all felt a bit hollow on that third day as Williamson, in concert with Colin de Grandhomme, made Test cricket look more like the backyard variety.

New Zealand were miles (and miles) ahead. Whether it came on the fourth day or the fifth, victory was assured, with the only potential debate being whether they'd win by an innings or not.

And yet they batted on and on, on a desperately flat pitch against a dispirited and pop-gun attack, building a first innings lead that almost reached 500. For what? Not to impact the result, that's for sure. Bangladesh were no hope of winning.

New Zealand's Neil Wagner is clapped off the field by team mates after taking his sixth five wicket bag in test cricket.

Neil Wagner's five wicket haul deserved the Man of the Match in the first Test, according to Hamish Bidwell. Photo: Photosport

No, the innings only seemed to continue because Williamson was nearing 200. The commentators all played a guessing game about when the declaration might come, settling on the drinks break of the second session as the most likely point.

Could 'Captain Kane' reach the double century before this arbitrary cut-off point? Well, what do you know, Williamson hit the final ball of the hour for four, reaching 200 and immediately declaring.

If the point of the exercise hadn't been the milestone, then why didn't he close the innings long before that? And if it was about getting 200, then why leave de Grandhomme not out on 76? The way things were going he would only have needed a handful of overs to get to three figures too.

After all, it's not as if batting on would've put the result in any jeopardy. New Zealand weren't going to be short of time to bowl Bangladesh out again. The bowlers might have actually enjoyed a bit longer with the feet up.

No, the only remaining purpose of the innings appeared to be getting Williamson to 200.

He should be better than that. We all understand that there are series played on more difficult wickets, against better bowlers.

We know that, when you get on a flat one against a modest attack, you need to cash in.

If people didn't want batting to be an often selfish enterprise, they wouldn't record your statistics.

But Williamson is New Zealand's captain. He's responsible for the whole team, not just himself. As a player of stature, he also has a responsibility to the game as a whole.

Whether he made 120 or 200 really wasn't going to make a difference to the result. The only person those runs really mattered to was Williamson.

But, hey, who am I to criticise him. He's 'officially' New Zealand's finest ever player, according to some computer program.

Heck, he was even man of the match in Hamilton, despite Neil Wagner deserving that honour.

On an absolute road, his 5-47 to help bowl Bangladesh out for 234 on the first day was the winning and losing of the match.

Not the 200 Williamson ended up with.

*Hamish Bidwell is a contributor to Radio New Zealand. He has previously worked at The Northern Advocate, Gisborne Herald, Hawke's Bay Today, The Press, The Dominion Post and Stuff.