- Publish Date
- Sunday, 11 February 2024, 9:37AM
By Will Toogood
It’s no surprise the man who has scored more test runs and test centuries than any other New Zealand player shone in his youth - but Kane Williamson’s first cricket coach says it wasn’t just his ability, but the way he carried himself that put him on-course to be our greatest ever.
David Johnston worked for Bay of Plenty Cricket for many years and came across the young Williamson already making a name for himself in junior cricket. Johnston told Newstalk ZB’s Jason Pine that a regional primary school tournament he witnessed something that showed Williamson was not only a player of supreme talent, but one who understood and respected the game of cricket.
“It was in Gisborne at a Northern Districts primary school tournament, his dad Brett was coaching them. He’d peeled off three centuries in the first three days so his dad changed the batting order, Kane came in at about eight I think. The team was in pretty serious trouble, maybe six down for not too many.
“He proceeded to work his way through and he got to the last partner and I think they might have put on about 60 or 70 for the last wicket - Kane ended up with a hundred.
“As they walked off the field, the players stood to clap Kane and he stood back and let the young guy, who was about three or four not out at the other end, leave the field first because Kane recognised and respected he couldn’t have done that without the young man that had been batting at the other end. That’s just the mark of the boy back then at the age of 12 - and nothing’s changed.”
Williamson has become one of the most well-liked and respected cricketers in today’s game and Johnston told Pine it comes down to an insatiable desire to be better - not better than his peers, but better than himself.
“His father Brett had coached him in his early years and he’d done a very good job of establishing some pretty strong foundations in his game. Once I got involved it was very obvious early on that he was not only quite talented, but he had this prodigious desire to improve and I think that’s the greatest thing about Kane.
“The desire to be better and it’s nothing to do with being better than everybody else, it’s just being better than himself. He used to practise harder than anybody else.
“Those who know Kane and those who have thrown cricket balls to him over the years would attest to the fact that nothing’s changed, he just loves to practise and loves to become better.”
One of the marks of Williamson’s ability is how things seem to come easily to him when he is batting - Johnston says that wasn’t always the case but it’s one of the factors that led to his greatness.
“I think his first game for Northern Districts, he actually got a pair, playing against Auckland. So as a 16- or 17-year-old batting first drop, I think it might have been Andre Adams got him LBW twice.
“So right from the start, it didn’t always happen but he had this thirst for improvement, this thirst for knowledge and thirst to be better. He dealt with it a lot better than anybody else and that’s why he’s one of the greats of today’s cricket.”
This article was first published on nzherald.co.nz and is republished here with permission
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