“Really?” Hackett is said to have replied, deadpan. “I was just concentrating on playing the right notes.”
Such a matter-of-fact response to an outpouring of awe puts one in mind of Kane Williamson’s attitude to run-scoring.
While others eulogise and extol the Yorkshire batsman, who yesterday became New Zealand’s record century-maker in Test cricket with 18, Williamson gives off the air of a man for whom such lavish praise is a fuss about nothing.
Asked to reflect on the hundred against England at Eden Park that took him past the 17 made by the legendary Martin Crowe, and also by current team-mate Ross Taylor, Williamson said: “It’s not really something I think a huge amount about. Martin was a fantastic, world-class player for New Zealand – our best player, batsman certainly, of all-time. The respect is certainly there for Martin and what he’s done for the game.
“For me personally, I’ve never focused too much on stats. It’s always been about trying to do my best for the team.”
If anything, Williamson was more piqued than pleased after being dismissed for 102 on a second day shortened by rain to 23.1 overs, the captain advancing from his overnight 91 before being trapped lbw by James Anderson.
“It was frustrating to not still be out there,” he reflected after New Zealand ended on 229-4 in response to England’s risibly inadequate 58. “However, it was a fairly good delivery.”
Much like his batting, Williamson’s words are straight down the line, carefully chosen and straight to the point.
Not for him emotional outbursts with bat or vocal chords; everything about the 27-year-old is methodical, clinical almost.
Were Williamson playing Hackett’s guitar solo, there would be no histrionics or grandstanding to the crowd.
And perchance that a pair of panties was propelled in his direction by a star-struck groupie near the stage, a la Tom Jones, it would no doubt faze Williamson about as much as a bouncer flying past his ears – an interruption that would literally go in one ear and out of the other before he returned to a state of submersed concentration.
After century No 18 in his 64th Test, Williamson must surely have serious claim to the very status that he confers on Crowe – namely, that of being New Zealand’s best ever batsman.
He certainly has a better average – 51 compared with Crowe’s 45, along with apparently superior claims to other great Kiwi batsmen such as Glenn Turner, Bert Sutcliffe, Stephen Fleming and Taylor.
Indeed, Fleming tweeted that “Williamson’s century (was) an emotional milestone for us @BLACKCAPS fans but one feels just a stepping stone for our greatest”.
For him, and for many others, Williamson already stands on top of the pile.
Some years ago, while he was enjoying one of his occasional overseas stints at Headingley, to where he returns this summer, Williamson was giving interviews at a Yorkshire pre-season media day.
I remember asking him one of the most bland and unimaginative questions that you can possibly put to a foreign import – “do you feel that there is added pressure on your shoulders to score runs as the club’s overseas star?”
Williamson fixed me with a look of polite admonishment – it might have been pity – and said with a self-deprecating smile: “I’m an overseas star, am I?”, emphasising with distaste the word “star”.
It was an informative insight into his humility and mindset.
Some other players, if you mouthed the word “star” in their direction, would not bat an eyelid and simply take it as statement of fact, one’s due deference paid, but the very fact that Williamson found the term uncomfortable spoke volumes for his character and personality which, allied to his talent and determination, has propelled him to the very top of his profession.
Everything about Williamson, in fact, is impressive. Like Joe Root, his England counterpart, he is a great ambassador for the game and a good man too.
Williamson’s understated century celebrations are a positive joy to behold, and in stark contrast to the self-glorifying outpourings of triumph of “stars” such as Australia’s David Warner.
How many Test centuries Williamson will end up celebrating before he hangs up his bat is anyone’s guess.
But, as the man himself says, “I’ve never focused too much on stats”.