Cricket: Fit-again Kane Williamson given heroes' welcome

By Andrew Alderson in Indore

New Zealand cricket captain Kane Williamson during a training session in India. Photo / Getty
New Zealand cricket captain Kane Williamson during a training session in India. Photo / Getty

When Kane Williamson strode onto Holkar Stadium it must have felt like his home ground.

The New Zealand captain received rapturous applause from the Anil Kumble Stand as locals welcomed a hero of their game for the ground's maiden test, starting Saturday.

Williamson was practising for the first time since a viral illness ruled him out of the second test in Kolkata when India took an unassailable 2-0 lead in the series with their 178-run victory. He spent about half an hour getting throwdowns which, as one wag pointed out on Twitter, was better than throwups.

He then moved into the practice nets to apply himself against local net bowlers, and particularly Jeetan Patel.

Team batting coach Craig McMillan, Williamson's trusty throwdown sidekick, spent the initial period firing balls at New Zealand's best batsman. Each stroke was celebrated with cheers as Williamson worked around a full clock face of strokes for the Indore faithful.

When questioned by NZME, the assembled fans spoke of Williamson in revered tones, until someone in the throng segued to Virat Kohli. Williamson was momentarily forgotten, drowned by a deafening chant paying homage to the Indian captain.

Williamson's movement was ginger as his recovery continues, but New Zealand fans can at least be upbeat that he was confident enough to don the pads. He looked pallid and his economy of movement suggested even a relatively gentle session was taxing.

Still, watching Williamson bat can be a panacea. He's cricket's version of a cup of English breakfast tea after a stressful day's work. The bat swivels like a wand before tapping the ground up to four times before the point of delivery and his shot decision. The ball often reverberated sweetly into the nets but he demonstrated little of his usual authority. His foot work presumably struggled as his muscle fibres get back up to speed. Regardless, the methodical approach and insistence on practice remains insatiable. It was also a reminder never to take McMillan's bionic right bicep on in an arm wrestle. Williamson checked his alignment and had the odd discussion to see he was meeting expectations.

The only two obvious blemishes came with mistimed drives. One flew into the middle of the field; the other kept the fans alert as it lobbed harmlessly over the nets and wrought iron boundary fence into the seating.

Williamson's sighting was a welcome contrast to the gaunt figure about to embark on a gym session at the team hotel on Tuesday.

He has played 13 of his 53 tests in Asia to average 47.82, compared with his career mean of 51.05. That drops to 38.72 from six tests in India where he scored a century on debut in Ahmedabad in 2010. New Zealand need him.

Elsewhere, the covers revealed a wicket threatening to deceive with green tinges around the periphery.

The cracks suggested 'turn' as coach Mike Hesson gave it his customary forensic examination in consultation with local experts. The odds suggested Ish Sodhi had the most to gain from the subsequent practice, and Matt Henry the most to lose, although that would be a tough call given the Cantabrian's six for 105 in the Kolkata test was the stand-out bowling performance.

- NZ Herald

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