What the fallout means for New ZealandTwo days ago, when Hardik Pandya, captain of the Gujarat Titans, was asked about Williamson’s injury, he said that GT, as a team, ‘will manage’ and he was more gutted for Kane from a personal standpoint.
New Zealand wish they could say the same. For the Blackcaps have lost their captain, leader and best batter, and six months ahead of the World Cup, they’re staring right into the abyss.
For starters, Williamson’s injury means that Tom Latham will be leading the Kiwis at the World Cup, assuming NZC don’t make a last-minute change as they did in Tests.
There’s good and bad news. The good news is that Latham has already captained New Zealand 25 times in ODIs, and is no stranger to leadership in this format. Additionally, he has an astonishingly good record as skipper, having won 21/25 games. That’s a win percentage of 84%.
The bad news is that only three of these games have come either away in the subcontinent or away against a traditional ‘big’ team, with the Blackcaps boasting a 0-3 record in those matches.
All three aforementioned matches, in fact, came in India three months ago — we’ll be generous and say that the Kiwis were outclassed by a better side.
So Latham is, for lack of a better term, an unproven captain at the elite level.
Take nothing away from his impeccable record — it’s impressive to churn out results like he’s done — but captaining in the subcontinent is a whole different beast (as Latham himself found out in January).
Does Latham, as a skipper, know how to get the best out of his spinners? Does he know how to operate when there’s excessive dew? How will he react to pressure? Is he capable of not letting the burden of captaincy affect his batting in a tournament as monumental as the World Cup?
All these questions loom large.
But if you’re New Zealand, Latham’s captaincy is probably the least of your worries. Because hey, you first have to replace Williamson as a batter, which is an impossible task in itself.
Will Young, who’s had a fantastic start to his ODI career (352 runs @ 52.28 after 10 games), is the front-runner but it’s worth noting that Young has only faced Bangladesh, Netherlands, Ireland and Sri Lanka, with 70% of his knocks coming at home.
You can, of course, only beat what’s in front of you but scoring against ‘weaker’ sides in low-stake encounters is not in the same ballpark as playing away in India in a World Cup.
New Zealand are not just losing Williamson’s runs — which he scored in plenty, mind you — but also his experience, ability to absorb pressure, knowledge of conditions, stability and sense of calmness he brings, and a lot more. These qualities are neither quantifiable nor replaceable.
His is what you call an irreparable loss.
The most unfortunate of setbacks on a personal levelIt is injuries or incidents like these which make you question whether there’s any justice in this world we live in.
The dodgy elbow plagued Williamson for years and severely set him back at a time when, ideally, he should have been feasting on runs. 29-32 is generally what we consider the peak years for a batter but Williamson spent maximum time during this period on the sidelines, rehabbing and recovering.
And the injury affected his batting and in turn his returns, big time.
But just when it looked like Williamson was slowly but surely getting back to his best — 1075 runs @ 89.58 in his last 16 innings across formats — he’s been dealt with yet another long-term injury, this one a possible career-threatening one.
ACL tears are brutal — ask any football fan, they’ll tell you. The elbow injury had already set Williamson back but now this knee injury has taken another year away from his career.
Williamson, in all likelihood, will not take the field for another 9-10 months, by which point he’d be nearing 34.
Will he be the same when he returns? Does he have another World Cup in him? How many years of top-level cricket can his body handle? Will this force him to give up one, if not multiple formats?
So many questions. So much uncertainty.
The World Cup will be poorer without Williamson
From Williamson’s perspective, it’s tragic that he’ll be missing the World Cup. But equally, the World Cup, too, will be poorer without the presence of the New Zealand skipper.
True, cricket is a team sport. And yes, the show will go on.
But it is players like Williamson who make the World Cup what it is. The absolute greats, the best of the best, carry with them an indescribable aura that not only elevates the competition but enriches the viewing experience.
Carlos Alcaraz missed the Australian Open, and it sucked. Sure, it was a missed opportunity for Alcaraz, but his absence was a bigger loss for the sport and the fans. The competition, as a whole, as a result of his injury, was poorer.
The feeling will be no different come October when the World Cup takes place without Williamson, the individual who played the biggest part in making the 2019 WC the greatest spectacle of all time.
All we ever wanted was to witness the Fab Four face-off against each other in a global event one last time. The Cricketing Gods will never be forgiven for denying us the same.
Tragicomic Williamson run-out sums up New Zealand’s horror morning
Kane Williamson, the 5ft 7inch giant at home
Unusually pinned down by spin, can Tom Latham turn back the clock?
Captain Williamson has raised the bar and he’s not done yet
The anatomy of the understated genius, Tom Latham
The Kane-sized problem for New Zealand
Kane Williamson and the Indian saga
How has New Zealand fared without Williamson?
Kane Williamson and New Zealand’s array of impressive captains