Gary Stead: Kane Williamson 'going really well' ahead of return to Test cricket

New Zealand coach pleased with Kyle Jamieson prioritising Tests by not putting his name in IPL auction this year

Kane Williamson cuts close to the body, New Zealand v Pakistan, 2nd Test, Christchurch, 3rd day, January 5, 2021

Kane Williamson will head straight from the IPL to England  •  Getty Images

New Zealand coach Gary Stead is confident that Kane Williamson will be able to withstand the rigours of Test cricket when he returns from a long-standing elbow problem against England next month.
"Absolutely, yep," Stead said when asked if Williamson would be ready for the start of the series. "He's going really well. Been talking to him regularly the last week or so and he has no issues at all, training almost completely unrestricted now.
"Still just being careful around the overloading side of it so if that means he has a really big day batting just making sure he's not doing too much the next day. It will be an ongoing thing probably for the rest of his career that we will need to keep managing."
Williamson has missed New Zealand's last five Tests, and sat out the entire home season due to the tendon injury in his left arm. His recovery was very carefully managed by the NZC medical team, which included being limited to 20-minute batting sessions. He has now returned to the action in the IPL with Sunrisers Hyderabad - where he is averaging just 24.37 at a strike-rate of 99.48 - and as soon as his participation there is finished, will be heading to England for the three-match series.
One remaining unknown for Williamson - and the other New Zealand Test players at the IPL - is how long they will have to prepare for the first Test once they reach England. They will certainly miss the two warm-up matches In late May, and if any are involved in the final on May 29, they would likely arrive just three days before the Lord's Test on June 2, although it is a balancing act New Zealand have been through before.
"That may cause us some discussions if we have a number of players who are in [the final] but we'll cross that bridge when we get there," Stead said.
One key player who will benefit from the full warm-up period in England is fast bowlerKyle Jamieson as he opted not to put his name forward for this year's IPL auction after bagging a US$ 2 million deal with Royal Challengers Bangalore in 2021.
"Think it's a very brave move for someone of Kyle's age to make," Stead said. "He's had some experiences there and worked out what he needs as a cricketer. He wants to play all forms for New Zealand if he can, but Test cricket being the pinnacle for him is really important to him.
"He identified that, we had some conversations, and I think to not put his name in the hat was something not many cricketers would do. But I congratulate him on looking after what he thinks he needs to play Test cricket."
New Zealand, who beat England 1-0 last year ahead of the winning the World Test Championship final, will be facing a side going through upheaval in the format, and now under new captain Ben Stokes.
Stead, who was Canterbury coach when Stokes made a brief appearance for them in 2017 during his ban from international cricket, is hopeful his team can make life tough as soon as the series gets underway.
"I imagine there will be an immediate steel to their group," Stead said. "Think the abrasive way he plays will probably have a rub-off to the group as well. Part of what we will be trying to do is making things very, very hard for Ben Stokes as immediately as we can. And if we can do that then hopefully that might nullify the strength of the English.
"But they are still a quality team. You look through the list, there's world-class players throughout the team so it's certainly not that we are going over there expecting just to roll them over."