IPL 2023: Kane Williamson healed and ready for new IPL challenges

After an IPL to forget in 2022, Kane Williamson has a new franchise, a fit-again elbow and, having surrendered captaincy and a freed mind for best form.

IPL 2023: Kane Williamson healed and ready for new IPL challenges
  • Sinchan Saha | March 30, 2023 | 5:15 am

Numerous cricket photographs adorn the walls on all four sides as you enter the lounge area of the Gujarat Cricket Association (GCA) within the Motera complex in Ahmedabad. In one of them, India’s prime minister and then-Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi is seen shaking hands with Jeetan Patel. Kane Williamson is seen in the background.

Image Source: News18

That picture was taken 13 years ago, at the same Ahmedabad Test where Williamson became the youngest centurion to make his debut for New Zealand. Williamson could only manage a shy smile and a raised bat that day as he took off his helmet to applaud his teammates. In point of fact, his captain, Daniel Vettori, was the more animated of the two as he rushed over to wrap his arm around the youngster’s shoulder, give him a big hug, and pat him on the back.

This young, fresh-out-of-his-teens child with a baby face and no beard returns to Ahmedabad for the first time since that hundred. He still keeps his cool like a wise man, but now he has a full beard, which he often tends to while he talks to the media at an IPL champion Gujarat Titans event. He talks about his first time in the city, then about playing in two exciting Test matches in a month and getting on the next flight to India.

He is also asked about his chances of playing in the Titans’ starting XI and how hurt he feels about Sunrisers Hyderabad not keeping him. Williamson doesn’t rush and is focused. He stops and waits patiently before continuing when there is conversation in the foreground. Furthermore, as he talks, as usual, there’s a demeanor of quiet around him.

“My cricketing brain certainly hasn’t been switched off. When you’re out on the field, you’re trying to do as much as you can for the team. Whether that’s assisting where you can when you’re called upon for your ideas or otherwise. It’s quite a natural thing to be engaged in the game but having said that it [the decision to step down as Test captain] has taken a little bit off my plate, which was a large part of the reason for making that decision. Often, it’s the parts around it [captaincy], where you get a little bit more time back. I’ve always thought it was never a ‘forever job’, it requires a lot of energy, and I really enjoyed my time in that specific role. I do enjoy being involved in leadership, which is basically helping where I can.”

he warms up with a laugh, when asked about how life has been since he decided to give up Test captaincy in December.

“Less commitments off the field” has come as a relief. “It’s been a really enjoyable thing in terms of playing under Tim Southee, who is captaining the Test team and doing a great job. Having said that, there’s transition involved [of going from captain to just a player] without a doubt, there’s perhaps less commitments off the field. It’s still a change, something that I’m experiencing at the moment and working through. I’m fortunate to have a number of leaders in the New Zealand environment. And then to come here and have Hardik [Pandya] captaining the side, it’s something I’m excited about as well.”

Williamson says.

Williamson is not only reenergized mentally, but he is also no longer concerned about his “niggling elbow,” which for a long time made it difficult for him to manage his workload and sometimes even prevented him from making certain shots or long throws during training.

His batting certainly appeared to be affected by that elbow. At IPL 2022, Williamson scored only 216 runs in 13 innings. Among batters who faced at least 100 balls during the season, his strike rate of 93.50 was the slowest. Williamson believes that he is in the same good physical condition as before this time around.

“My cricketing brain certainly hasn’t been switched off. When you’re out on the field, you’re trying to do as much as you can for the team. Whether that’s assisting where you can when you’re called upon for your ideas or otherwise.”

The fact that Kane Williamson is no longer captain does not mean that he ceases to perform on the field

“Yeah, it was something that was improving slowly all the time, it was requiring management. It’s a lot better now and it’s not something that is restricting me in terms of training loads, playing and all those things. Although no injury is ideal and often injuries require time to heal, working through this was no different. It’s nice to be back playing, training and not be burdened by it.”

he explains.

When you think of Williamson and the Indian Premier League, it’s hard not to picture him wearing the orange uniform of Sunrisers Hyderabad. Williamson had played for Sunrisers Hyderabad since 2015 and captained the team until he was let go after the 2022 season. In any case, a real impact of groups and point of view, and being unshackled by authority obligations, could simply let him take up a key role, potentially at the highest point of the request with Shubman Gill.

If Williamson succeeds and contributes to the Titans’ continued success in their debut season, he will likely be featured in a larger photo frame in the GCA lounge when he potentially returns to the Motera for the ODI World Cup later this year.