CHENNAI: When Kane Williamson suffered a nasty knee injury in the Indian Premier League 2023 opener in Ahmedabad in March, playing in the World Cup looked a far cry.
New Zealand head coach Gary Steadwas a worried man, stressing that the unexpected setback threw a spanner in their works in the lead-up to the blue-riband event.Stead feared the worst but did not give up hope on the timely return of Williamson, who, according to him, is a “three-in-one” package in theBlack Caps set-up-player, leader, and person.
In a matter of months, agony miraculously turned into ecstasy as the 33-year-old took baby yet significant steps that were good enough for him to force his way into the World Cup travelling party. Williamson’s road to recovery has been near-perfect, which is why he finds himself on the brink of making a competitive comeback, a little over six months after the horrific injury.
Providing a shot in the arm for New Zealand,
Williamson will lead the Kiwis for the rest of the tournament, beginning with a round-robin clash against Bangladesh at the MA Chidambaram Stadium here on Friday. “Initially, it (making it to the World Cup) was not really considered. I have made some good progress. I was excited when I was named in the squad. It feels great to be here,” Williamson said on Thursday.
To equip himself to the demands of tournament play, the batting ace had a hit in the two practice matches and has been sweating it out at the nets. “The rehabilitation was a series of many small steps. The warm-up games were enjoyable. Before and during those games, the focus was on returning to playing fitness,” Williamson added.
Williamson’s availability will serve as a big boost for New Zealand, who will have to showcase another side of their game on a Chennai pitch that aid spinners. In their first two matches, the Black Caps feasted on the batting-friendly conditions which were presented to them in Ahmedabad and Hyderabad, posting comprehensive victories over defending champions England and the Netherlands respectively. With the Chepauk surface traditionally assisting the slower bowlers and Bangladesh being a side packed with spinners, New Zealand could be in for a big “challenge”.
New Zealand boast of quality resources who can tackle the three-pronged Bangladesh spin attack, which includes skipper and left-armer Shakib Al Hasan. As for Bangladesh, they will look to get the winning feeling back, after going down to England in Dharamsala.