‘That is a real mental error!’
One of the fascinating sub-plots to David Warner’s fall from grace has been the opportunity his ban has given his Sunriser’s Hyderabad teammate Kane Williamson to become captain of their IPL team and get the consistent game-time that’s eluded him in the past.
Williamson has grabbed the opportunity stunningly well and after 11 IPL matches they’re top of the table and have already qualified for the semi-finals, due largely to the New Zealand captain’s great success with the bat and the calm leadership he’s provided for his side.
The irony of Williamson taking over the reins from Warner is hard to overlook. You couldn’t think of two more unique personalities and the way they both bat is just as different.
Williamson is renowned for being level-headed, consistent with everything he does and doing his talking with the bat. Warner is a temperamental loose cannon that could get a golden duck one day and score a 50 ball century the next. His class with the bat has meant that his perceived lack of class in other areas seems to have been comfortably overlooked by teammates, officials and fans as he’s worked his way up the pecking order towards leadership roles.
The contrast can be traced right back to their time at school. Warner seemed to take great pride two years ago when he published his Year 12 school report card on Instagram. His maths teacher had commented: “David only wants to be the class clown. He offers little effort or co-operation. Without a complete change of attitude these results will not improve.”
At the other end of the spectrum, Kane Williamson excelled academically and is musically talented as well, demonstrating the type of balance and example through school that saw him earn Head Boy status at Tauranga Boys High School in his final year.
Williamson took over the New Zealand team’s captaincy from Brendon McCullum, who’d gained respect towards the end of his international career for the way he’d led the Black Caps. In the formative stage of McCullum’s career though he was revered in New Zealand for his confident and cocky approach which saw him stand up to the Australians and South Africans with his body language and quick wit just as much as he did with the bat and his world-class wicketkeeping.
Williamson is on a totally different level with the respect he has for cricket and the way it’s played. Maybe Kumar Sangakkara is a recent international cricketing ‘gentleman’ of nearly the same class.
What’s been fascinating to watch with Williamson during the 2018 IPL has been how much the success of performing well and leading his team victoriously has meant to him. He’s even expressed more emotions than he’s shown after some important wins for the Black Caps.
There’s almost a sense that the consistent game-time in the shortest version of the game has not only unlocked the stroke-play many people suspected he had in him but it’s also given his overall cricketing career a new lease of life.
At the time of writing, Williamson had scored 493 runs in the 2018 IPL at an average of 62 and strike rate of 135. Pure statistics probably don’t do justice to his contribution with the bat though. The Sunrisers’ strength is their bowling attack and he’s shouldered huge responsibility with the bat, often on tracks where more than 150 has been an above-par total.
The statistics also can’t explain what a tremendous opportunity Warner’s absence has been for Williamson as a player and a captain.
It had again seemed likely that with the Australian captaining the franchise the Kiwi would play a limited role with the Hyderabad team as he did from 2015-2017. During that time he only played 15 games, mainly because the IPL still restricts each team to four overseas players per match.
To Warner’s credit he’d performed well as captain: In 2015 and 2017 he scored the most runs in the competition and in 2016 he played a match-winning innings in the final when the Sunrisers won the Indian Premier League for the first time.
Because of Warner’s phenomenal success in the past, it seems highly likely that an IPL team will want him back next year. Whether the Sunrisers want him again after such a successful season led by such a different type of person remains to be seen.
One thing for sure though is if Warner wants to truly seek redemption he couldn’t find a better person to model himself on than Kane Williamson.