Tauranga, Feb 1: New Zealand captain Kane Williamson exudes confidence in his successful recovery from a hamstring injury that he suffered during the T20I series against Pakistan in January and is fit for the first Test against South Africa that gets underway on February 4 in Mount Maunganui.
The seasoned batsman, who missed a significant part of 2023 due to various injuries, is eager to join the team and looks forward to reuniting with the Test squad.
"My hamstring is good, it's progressed well in the last couple of weeks. Feeling good, and looking forward to getting back to training and joining up with the team. The weather has been incredible. Extremely hot, so yup, I am confident and as I said will just be nice to join back up with the side and I think all the guys are really looking forward to getting back together as a Test team,” said Williamson in the pre-match press conference.
Addressing concerns about injuries, Williamson assured that both Kyle Jamieson, recovering from a back injury, and wicketkeeper-batter Tom Blundell, bouncing back from a hamstring issue, are in good spirits and ready for the upcoming challenge. Despite some uncertainties, Williamson believes the team is relatively injury-free, emphasizing their focus on the cricket ahead.
"I just saw them (Blundell and Jamieson) in the lunch room and they looked comfortable eating well and I think they are fine. Obviously, with these injuries, they can vary a lot from individual to individual and Tom with his hamstring took a little bit longer having a tendon involved. I think he is good, raring to go and Kyle bowled a spell a few days ago and I think got through nicely. I think everyone is fit and well,” he added.
South Africa's decision to send a second-string squad, featuring eight uncapped players, has sparked varied opinions. However, Williamson remains unfazed and emphasises the importance of concentrating on their own game plan, regardless of the opposition. He acknowledges the challenge of facing relatively unknown players but stresses the team's commitment to thorough preparation.
"For us, we just want to focus on the cricket that we want to play and the plans that we have and that doesn't change from opposition to opposition," he said.
"There are adjustments within the conditions etc, but there are a number of players in the South African side that members of our team are quite certainly familiar with playing county cricket and these things.
"So we are under no illusions that it is going to be a tough contest for sure. They are all very good players and we just want to keep bringing the focus back to our cricket."
Acknowledging the historical significance of the series, as New Zealand has never beaten South Africa in a Test series, Williamson sees it as an opportunity to make history and collect crucial World Test Championship (WTC) points. Currently sitting third on the WTC points table, a series win could propel New Zealand to second place.
Reflecting on the extended Test championship campaign, Williamson emphasizes the difficulty of micro-managing and the importance of staying connected as a group. The focus remains on playing their brand of cricket consistently throughout the series, aiming for prolonged periods of excellence.
"Any win anywhere is crucial," Williamson said. "That's why it is difficult to micro-manage a Test championship campaign. It's such a long period of time and the games can come a bit sporadically with the Test cricket so it's trying to just connect as a group, focus on the cricket that we want to play that gives us the best chance and try and do that for long period. That's the focus going into the series." (IANS)