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T20 World Cup 2021

Kane Williamson proves there’s beauty in both T20 cricket and defeat

Williamson final
Aadya Sharma by Aadya Sharma
@Aadya_Wisden 4 minute read

Once again, Kane Williamson’s men ended up on the wrong side of a white-ball final, despite a superlative batting effort from the skipper. Aadya Sharma was in Dubai to witness the ever-dignified captain teach the world more about the beauty of T20 batting.

After the end of the match, Kane Williamson stepped out of the gloom of the New Zealand dugout, followed closely by his teammates. All cameras were transfixed on the team in yellow, hugging and cheering on one side; a trail of black and grey trotted past them, receiving little attention.

Williamson slowly walked up towards the presentation area and was overtaken by his teammates as he approached the dais. The portable setup was still being installed, so Williamson stood calmly, right leg crossed over the left, chatting with a cameraman. The setup took more time, and he put his hands behind his back, patiently standing like a primary school kid, waiting for his silver medal.

Williamson has always been gracious in defeat and continues to be. Hours earlier, he had conjured arguably his finest T20 knock, but defeat unfairly takes away the sheen from a masterful innings, and Williamson’s effort will always be in the losing column.

It was a truly great knock. Not just because it was in a World Cup final, or the top score for a team whose next best was 28, but because Williamson was often mistiming the ball himself, just like the others. The pitch appeared sluggish – he himself called the going “tough'” – but he still pulled off a string of awe-inducing strokes.

Three of them really stood out: one, a buttery flicked six off Mitchell Starc, kissed by the blade to fly over deep square-leg. Another a one-handed drag over deep midwicket off Glenn Maxwell, the swing of the swivelling left arm taking it deep into the stands (what Pant can do, Williamson can do too). The third was an uncharacteristic, modish lap-scoop, taking Josh Hazlewood from wide outside off and dabbing it past short fine-leg.

New Zealand had almost lost their way – from the start of the third over to the end of the eighth, they collected 17 runs – Guptill fell into a hole, striking at 79 after facing 28 balls, and Williamson was himself operating at 50. Then came Mitchell Marsh, and Williamson found his bowler to target. A 33-ball boundary-less streak was broken, and the dams were finally opened to bring in a deluge of rope-hits.

The run rate escalated dramatically as Williamson took ownership, moving from 6 off 12 to a final score of 85 off 48, the joint-highest score in a men’s T20 World Cup final. While at the crease, he was responsible for 71 per cent of his side’s runs. Prior to the final, New Zealand had done so well in the tournament without getting the best out of their captain; now he’d arrived, there were few others to give him a helping hand.

Daryl Mitchell extended his hand towards Williamson as the New Zealand team moved towards the presentation, standing in a queue for their tournament medals. The skipper was the last one to go: it was in alphabetical order, but he would have probably done the same regardless. As his turn came, he collected his medal, stumbling in his step as he went towards the presenter. He almost walked past the box holding the microphone, his mind probably still somewhere in the last few hours.

When he did speak, it was the same pacific tone as always, baring little pain of a vanquished skipper. There were no emotions to show, no people to blame, and no excuses to make. He said the team was “feeling it a bit”, but he also credited Australia for not giving them an inch.

The last remaining batch of fireworks were launched in the air, the shiny, silver confetti splashed out of bazookas, and linear flame shots were fired up in the background as Finch and co got their hands on the trophy. Once again, the Kiwis were seen trotting off in the distance, receiving little attention.

The night’s festivities did not belong to them, for it was a rare off-day in a brilliant tournament. If it’s any consolation, their captain was brilliant when it mattered the most. In three hours, the world learnt that great T20 batting can have heavenly strokeplay at its heart, and graciousness in defeat enhances the beauty of the competition like nothing else. The team that lost is truly blessed – their leader can do both.

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