New Zealand line up behind head boy Williamson

Agarkar: NZ needed individual performances (1:46)

Ajit Agarkar picks Kane Williamson as the star of the day for his century against India in the second ODI (1:46)

It's easy to picture Kane Williamson as a school head boy. Like the best of them, he is extremely talented, has a fine work ethic and seen to be an 'all-round good bloke.'

As with all good head boys, Williamson finds himself at the nervecentre of every activity. Team meeting? Call Williamson. Press conference? Williamson will tackle it.

There is also the inevitable comparison with his predecessor - Brendon McCullum - to contend with. While McCullum had the class of 2015 rapping to the tune of fearless, attacking cricket, Williamson's imprint is still work in progress.

The class of 2016 does not comprise slackers - most of McCullum's merry men continue with the good work - but the India tour has proved to be overwhelming for many of them. Martin Guptill has resembled an agonised drifter, while Ross Taylor seems to have gone uncomfortably numb. After the Test series whitewash, the free fall continued in the first ODI in Dharamsala. Who do they call on to arrest it? You hear a chorus, "Captain Kane!"

It is not like Williamson has had it all worked out himself. While he has looked good on different occasions during the tour - never mind the bullying by R Ashwin - he had not managed a century. "That is a good place to start," Mike Hesson, the headmaster, may possibly have told Williamson on the eve of the game. "And, for heaven's sake, win the toss." No pressure, Kane.

Hours later, Williamson loses another toss. Minutes later, he watches Guptill's bat stay away from the ball's path. Seconds later, Williamson walks out. India's new-ball pair of Umesh Yadav and Hardik Pandya has a skinny leg-side field, and they keep the off side interested by bowling well outside off. Further, the slip goes out to short cover, and a gully is in place to shut down the dab to third man, one of Williamson's strong scoring zones.

Williamson, standing on middle and leg stump, moves closer to the off stump. The counter-strategy is to enable him to connect deliveries outside off better, and also create an angle favourable for leg-side play. And so, Williamson flicks and tucks balls that remotely veer towards middle and leg, while flaunting his cover drive when the bowler overcorrects and goes too wide outside off.

MS Dhoni is doing everything to seal the off side, especially in front of square on a dull track, but there is the left-hand solidity of Tom Latham to contend with as well. Like many head boys, Williamson has a geeky, loyal sidekick in Latham, who refused to abandon the crease in Dharamsala even as the rest of his mates loped off.


'We showed signs of improvement' - Williamson

New Zealand captain Kane Williamson praises his team's performance after beating India in the second ODI in Delhi

The pitch has by now begun misbehaving, and the balls keep low as promised. But Latham is driving and pulling smoothly, as is Williamson, who does so by going down on his knee. At the start of the 13th over, he stays low and bashes Axar Patel through midwicket, and two balls later steps out to loft him over mid-on for six. The next delivery is flat and fast. Williamson lets the ball go past him and taps it on its head past gully. When Wiliamson is not playing these strokes, he is sweeping firmly and wristily. He has scored a half-century, but there is no theatre. The celebrations can wait. New Zealand, though, are breathing more easily at 115 for 1 in 20 overs.

That soon changes as Kedar Jadhav dismisses Latham with his Virender Sehwag-esque offbreaks. Jadhav's larger contribution, however, is drawing Taylor out of the dressing room. For the next 10 overs, Taylor is swiping at everything, but mostly air. Attempted cuts are inside-edged and slower ones are missed. The bowlers are now bowling further away from off stump. When one of Taylor's desperate swishes lands into the fielder's hands, New Zealand have scored only 38 runs in the 10.3 overs since Latham's dismissal.

Williamson knows the momentum has been snatched away. The bowling side is on top. He merely looks downwards with one hand on his waist. There is no discernible emotion otherwise. There is Corey Anderson on the comeback trail, and together they attempt to rebuild, brick by brick. As Williamson nears his hundred, the exertions are showing. On a day of unusual injuries - Rohit Sharma later seems to have a bicep cramp - Williamson's forearms are cramping. Massages are given and fluids are administered, literally, as he is not able to hold the bottle.

But, Williamson gets back to work, drives crisply to gather the two runs needed for his century. The bat is held up momentarily and the helmet is off, more as a polite 'thank you' than in any sense of accomplishment. Soon, he watches Anderson depart. Not long after, he departs, too, after battling three flanks - India's tactics, his team-mates' inadequacies and his own body.

New Zealand's last ten overs are a laborious blur and they only just manage a par score. But, as the night comes to a close, the head boy is making his victory speech. Unlike whatever he has done on the field, it is vanilla and free of passion. The good head boy is glad to keep it this way.