Sports, Cricket

NZ skipper Williamson targets World Cup return

Published : 26 Sep 2023 09:31 PM

Less than six months after knee surgery threatened to rule him out of next month’s ODI World Cup, the goal of captaining New Zealand in India has been the key driver in getting Kane Williamson through his recovery.

The 33-year-old tore the cruciate ligament in his right knee playing for Indian Premier League side Gujarat Titans in April, which looked to have scuppered his chances of making the showpiece tournament.

However, intense rehab work has meant a speedy recovery, as Williamson hopes to be ready for the Black Caps opening game against defending champions England on October 5, a repeat of the 2019 final his side narrowly lost.

“It would be great. Naturally, you want to be back playing when you are fit and ready, sooner rather than later,” he said.

“You hope that ends up being around that World Cup time, but I’m still being very focused on the rehab day-to-day and not wanting those targets to stretch it to a point where you take a backward step.” Williamson is already batting in the nets again, which the injured knee can handle.

“For running, it's not quite 100 percent, but making good progress,” he added. Black Caps coach Gary Stead said there was no fixed date for when Williamson will play again.

But his return will be a big boost. He was player of the 2019 tournament with centuries against South Africa and the West Indies in leading New Zealand to the cusp of lifting the trophy.

Williamson, who has chalked up over 6,500 runs in ODI cricket, is desperate to appear in a fourth World Cup, admitting the prospect “keeps you in the gym every day and working hard”.

“It’s been really pleasing to see the progress and keep taking those little steps forward,” he added.

While New Zealand have warmed-up for the World Cup with tours of England and Bangladesh, Williamson's injury has limited his preparations.

But he is not overly concerned. “Naturally, it isn’t ideal, but I didn’t get too much of a say in it. It’s the only option I have in front of me and the prospect of playing another World Cup is really, really exciting,” he said.

“It’s something you always want to be a part of but I didn't want that to dictate my rehab. At the same time, having a carrot at the back of your mind is helpful.”

Despite a burning desire to play, the New Zealand skipper said he would have no problem withdrawing from the squad if the injury flared up.

“I only want to be there if I can add some value and I’m fit and ready to go,” he said,

Williamson already knows about spending time on the sidelines after returning last year from a lengthy spell out with an elbow injury.

“Working through injuries are part of the job, so being ready for whatever’s next is the goal,” he said.