Classy Kane leading the way

There’s something very refreshing about watching an elegant cover drive or a stylish on-drive in a high-octane T20 game. While most batsmen in the Indian Premiere League (IPL) have been getting their fame for bludgeoning the ball and striking colossal sixes, New Zealand’s Kane Williamson has quietly risen to the top of the batting charts through his classy and composed batting.

The Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) captain has been one of the leading run-scorers of IPL 2018 with 493 runs in 11 matches with six fifties. He has been the nucleus of Hyderabad’s batting and is one of the prime reasons for the team’s spectacular success this season of the IPL where they have topped the league table at present. As a batsman, Williamson has been exceptional. In a brittle batting line up, he has been the glue holding the team together at the top. With a slew of match-winning scores, Williamson has shown that how crucial his style of batting can be in a tournament like the IPL.

He has been steady, giving himself time to settle in and then taking on the bowlers apart. It is a strategy that has worked for him brilliantly and allowed him to play some truly special knocks – the most recent of them being the unbeaten 83 off 53 balls against Delhi Daredevils in a formidable chase.

It is interesting to note that prior to this season, Williamson had played only 15 matches in three seasons. He has regularly dropped after an odd poor performance here and there and was never really allowed a settled position in the batting order. Even when he was dropped, not many questioned that move as Kane Williamson wasn’t really seen as an expected star performer in the IPL. But he has shown finally that class really matters in the long run.

The way Williamson had struck his boundaries and sixes have been exquisite to watch. His punches through the off-side, the flicks and pulls through the leg-side and the elegant drives down the ground have all added a sense of gracefulness in the frenzied proceedings of the IPL this year.

As a captain, Williamson has been simply remarkable. He has brought all his experience of being the New Zealand captain and helped it in molding SRH as being the top team of this IPL. In the absence of David Warner this year, it was expected that the Sunrisers would crumble. After all, the fiery Australian was their best batsman and had almost single-handedly won them the title in 2016.

Williamson, however, has been a refreshing change as a captain. His calm, composed and gritty demeanor has rubbed off on his team and helped them remain cool under pressure. It is the very reason that they have managed to defend some truly small targets. Williamson did not lose his cool when his best bowler, Rashid Khan, was walloped for four massive sixes by Chris Gayle. And he retained his composure when Royal Challengers Bangalore needed 26 to win off 22 balls, eventually leading them to a five-run victory.

Williamson has marshaled his resources brilliantly and allowed his players to express themselves. He has been astute with his field placements and absolutely terrific with his bowling changes. One of the reasons why Hyderabad has done so well as a bowling unit is because Williamson has shuffled around his bowlers shrewdly and given them the confidence to be their best. He has utilized his trump card, Rashid Khan, in short bursts, and thus allowed the physiological edge of the champion leg-spinner over the opposition to constantly loom large. He has also extracted the best out of seam bowler Siddarth Kaul by giving him responsibility which the youngster has thrived in.

Williamson clearly has been the best captain of IPL 2018 and it will be interesting to see how he manages his team in the final stages where there will be much more pressure. As a batsman, too, his responsibility will increase manifold and he would have to ensure that he continues to be the solid rock for the Sunrisers’ batting.

Regardless of what happens later on in the season, it has been a treat watching Kane Williamson the batsman and the captain in full flow this IPL season. He is a one of a kind cricketer and IPL 2018 has been truly enriched by his presence.

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