Cricket: Williamson richly deserves accolade

By David Leggat

Kane Williamson 'soaks up the information'. Picture /  Dean Purcell
Kane Williamson 'soaks up the information'. Picture / Dean Purcell

Cricket has long been seen as a sport in which it is desperately hard to get general acclaim when it comes to receiving individual awards.

The view is that 10 other players presumably played their part in an individual's success - whether through taking catches, or sharing partnerships - therefore it is hard to accurately assess the measure of one player's achievements.

One Halberg judge several years ago staked her position with her opening observation at the deliberations meeting that as far as she was concerned no cricketer had a hope of getting her vote. That person, not a journalist, with their seriously narrow perspective, thankfully is long gone from the panel.

So cricket should rejoice in a stellar night at the Halberg Awards in Auckland on Thursday.

Not only did Kane Williamson's remarkable year of highest class batting get recognised, but Brendon McCullum's final days in the black cap were marked by an award for leadership, and Grant Elliott's stunning strike for six to win the World Cup semifinal against South Africa won the magic moment honour.

All richly deserved, and in Elliott's case, against some notable moments.

Williamson's award was particularly pleasing. He was a performer of the very highest calibre in 2015 during which he climbed to No 1 in the test batting rankings.

He won the Sportsman of the Year award ahead of notable finalists Danny Lee, a USPGA Tour winner, Indy500 winner Scott Dixon and All Black first five-eighth Dan Carter.

A check back on Williamson's numbers.

He scored 1172 test runs at a whopping 90.15. Four players scored more runs but none of Australian captain Steve Smith, teammate David Warner, or England's Joe Root and Alastair Cook came within cooee of Williamson's average. Next best was 17 runs per innings back.

Williamson got his runs in 16 innings; the next fewest among the other four was 24.

In ODIs, Williamson scored 1376 runs at 57.33. The only other player to have scored more was his teammate Martin Guptill with 1489. He scored eight centuries across the two forms.

In Australia he peeled off back-to-back hundreds in Brisbane and Perth. In Brisbane, he drew Australian journalists away from the racing pages and other distractions, and the oohs and aahs were audible, no mean feat for a New Zealander playing in Australia.

Williamson will doubtless play down his individual success, as he invariably does. He is an ultimate team player and takes any chance to steer praise away from self and onto the group.

The mind went back several years, shortly after Williamson had marked his test debut in Ahmedabad with a century. A conversation with a notable former New Zealand player veered towards Williamson. Was he just another highly promising player or a batsmen blessed with distinctly superior gifts to his peers, he was asked. No, said the former player, who had done some work with him. Williamson was a cut above the rest, and stood out in part because he was a sponge, soaking up as much information as he could, then tailoring the advice to his game.

Williamson doesn't think in terms of calendar performance. He made that point after his match-deciding century in difficult conditions against Sri Lanka in Hamilton shortly before Christmas.

Those sorts of qualifications are for media types and others with a fondness for pigeonholing performance.

In his mind, one series followed another and if they happened to be in the final week of December and the first in January, so be it.

He's not infallible. Think back a week to the Basin Reserve. But right now he succeeds more than his teammates.

There will continue to be misses, just as there will be hits. This year the hits far outweighed the misses and he richly deserves his honour.

- NZ Herald

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