Already dealing with the absence of regular skipper Kane Williamson, New Zealand will play the World Cup-opener against England on Thursday without key pacer Tim Southee, who is yet to recover from his thumb surgery.
Stand-in captain Tom Latham said Southee is making good progress after undergoing surgery last month to treat his fractured right thumb.
Southee had suffered the injury while attempting a catch offered by Joe Root at the Lord’s in a recent series which they lost 1-3.
Williamson had also underwent surgery for a torn anterior cruciate ligament in April and is yet to make a comeback to competitive cricket, though he played in Kiwis’ warm-up games ahead of the World Cup.
“Obviously no Kane and no Tim as well. He’s unavailable for selection just in terms of what happened to his thumb a couple of weeks ago, but he’s recovering nicely,” Latham told reporters on the eve of the tournament-opener.
“I think he’s nearly two weeks post-surgery so fingers crossed he can keep recovering. It’s a bit of a day-by-day process with him in terms of what that looks like too. But fingers crossed he’ll be available sooner rather than later as well,” Latham said.
The New Zealand skipper insisted that the outcome of their recent series as well as what happened in the World Cup final four years ago would not have any bearing when they clash with the defending champions.
“I don’t think it has any bearing on the next game. It’s about turning up on that specific day and trying to play your best brand of cricket. If we do that and we play to the best of our ability, then we can beat anyone in the world.
“It’s going to be a great opportunity tomorrow for us to come up against one of the best teams in the world at the moment. Conditions are completely different to what we played over in England,” he said.
Despite making the finals of the last two World Cups, New Zealand are not being counted as favourites and Latham said his side likes to ‘fly under the radar’.
“That’s probably something for you guys to decide, but as I said, we don’t necessarily focus on that. The Kiwis fly under the radar a little bit and go about our business in the way that we want to.
“Every team has a different brand that they like to play, a style that they like to play in, and we have ours. We know if we do that and we play to the best of our ability then we are hard to beat on the day,” he said.
The wicketkeeper-batter said pre-tournament predictions do not matter to the players.
“From our point of view, I’m sure like most teams, we’re not necessarily focused on what people are predicting. From our point of view we’re solely focused on what we have to do,” he said.
“The brand of cricket that we want to play at this World Cup is our main focus and when it comes towards the end of the tournament, if we’re in those positions (last four) then that’s great,” he said.
Latham hoped Williamson would be a part of the side soon.
“Any team that doesn’t have Kane in it is obviously, you know, we’d certainly be better off having him. But from our point of view, for him to be here — to be at the World Cup is a testament to — the work that he’s put on over the last four to five months to be where he is.
“It’s nearly six months post-surgery for him to be given a shot, to be given a chance to play in the World Cup at some point is really a testament to the work that he’s put in. So for him it’s a day-by-day process in terms of where his recovery is at,” Latham said.
Williamson came up with knocks of 54 and 37 in the two warm-up games against Pakistan and South Africa respectively.
“He’s obviously played a little bit of a part of the last two warm-up games. You know he’s been batting beautifully which is great to see and he was out in the field a couple of days ago so he’s progressing really nicely and fingers crossed he’s on the park sooner rather than later,” Latham signed off.