WHEN he strolls off into the sunset in around a decade’s time, Kane Williamson is widely expected to go down in history as New Zealand’s best batsman.
Some might say that the 25-year-old is already the best; indeed, his Test and one-day international averages of 49 and 47, respectively, are superior to those of Martin Crowe (45 and 38), traditionally regarded as the finest batsman to have represented the Kiwis.
Incredibly, Williamson’s Test, ODI and T20 international averages are already the highest of any New Zealand batting star, past or present, and he needs only five more hundreds to overtake Crowe’s Kiwis’ Test record of 17.
Along with Yorkshire’s Joe Root and Australia’s Steve Smith, he is rightly regarded as one of the finest young batsmen in the world.
This summer, Williamson is returning to Yorkshire for a third spell, spending six weeks with the club from June 9.
He is eligible for three County Championship, three One-Day Cup and eight T20 Blast matches.
Other cricketing duties prevent a longer stint, with the glut of international games making it increasingly difficult for clubs to tie top overseas players to long-term deals.
But as Yorkshire first-team coach Jason Gillespie remarked: “The opportunity to secure one of the best players in the world – if not the best – is one you have to take up”, regardless of how long that player is available for.
Since Williamson last played for Yorkshire in 2014, his star has risen significantly. Last year, he scored a New Zealand record of 2,633 runs across all formats at an average of 65, with eight hundreds and 13 fifties.
The tone was set in early January when he struck a Test-best 242 not out to help his team come from behind to beat Sri Lanka in Wellington.
It reached its peak the following month when he memorably creamed Pat Cummins back over his head for six to shoot down Australia by one wicket in a World Cup pool match in Auckland.
That shot – and specifically his own reaction to it – epitomised Williamson.
First, it was the stroke of an ambidextrous player, one who can adapt to all cricketing formats, fast and slow, as he made room outside leg stump to crash Cummins high over long-on.
Second, as the Eden Park stands erupted in ecstasy, Williamson celebrated with the softest of smiles and the most modest of fist-pumps.
Whereas others would have leapt around in demented style, hollering loudly and high-fiving madly, Williamson simply raised his bat in an understated fashion as he walked off the field, the cheers of 40,000 people ringing in his ears.
Like most things Williamson does, it was classy – a word that encapsulates his batting style.
He is, in fact, very much a classicist – a Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, if you will, in a world of Justin Beibers.
Williamson, who hails from the seaside town of Tauranga in the Bay of Plenty, is a throwback to those days when the MCC coaching manual was the bible of batsmanship.
He obeys its commandments and embraces orthodoxy, but he is a three-dimensional cricketer, one who can graft out a painstaking century in a Test match or knock out a fast-paced one in a 50-over or T20 game.
Williamson and Yorkshire are the perfect fit.
Both are successful and committed to improvement, while Williamson’s no-frills approach and competitive nature chimes well with traditional Yorkshire values.
With Williamson, there is little outward emotion or crude celebration of cricketing triumphs.
He simply puts his head down and gets on with the job, ticking off runs with the uncomplicated air of someone performing a stock-take in a department store.
The wonder of Williamson – apart from his output of runs – is the composure and serenity of the batsman and man.
Those are unusual traits in the modern sporting world; if anything fazes him, or rouses him to fury, he never seems to show it.
Martin Crowe has written as well as anyone on what makes Williamson stand out and so difficult to play against.
He described him as having “that X-factor which no-one can quite pin down”, which sums up Williamson to a tee.
He added: “Williamson is a difficult player to focus against. Due to his humility and lack of ego, it is harder for bowlers and captains to get ramped up about the absolute necessity to remove him.
“His passive body language gives very little to feed off. It’s noticeable that fielding sides are not sharp when he is at the crease, often spilling catches that would otherwise be taken if a sharper focus was created.”
Such is Kane Williamson, batsman supreme.