Lockie Ferguson has been ruled out of the T20 World Cup 2021 with a calf tear, New Zealand Cricket said in a statement less than an hour before the team's opening game, against Pakistan in Sharjah, on Tuesday.
Ferguson will be replaced by Adam Milne, who was already part of the reserves, in a like-for-like right-arm fast paceman swap.
"Ferguson felt tightness in his right calf following training and a subsequent MRI scan on game-day revealed a grade two tear which would require three to four weeks recovery," the NZC statement said.
New Zealand could potentially also be without Martin Guptill for their next game against India on Sunday*, with the opening batter sustaining a toe injury during the game against Pakistan. Guptill was struck on the toe by a delivery from Haris Rauf shortly before being dismissed for 17.
"He looked in a little bit of discomfort at the end of the game and it might take 24 to 48 hours to see how he goes," New Zealand coach Gary Stead told reporters after the match.
New Zealand's schedule for the group stage matches of the T20 World Cup will have them playing five games in 13 days, and Stead said they had no option but to rule Ferguson out of the tournament.
"It's a real shame for Lockie to have this happen on the eve of the tournament and the entire team is really feeling for him right now," Stead said. "He's a massive part of our T20 side and has been in such good form - so to lose him at this time is a blow.
"Being on the park is a great start. I've had a lot of trouble with that so it's been nice to sort of be able to play consistent cricket. It allows you to work on your game rather than go in starts and stops."Adam Milne
"However, we are fortunate to have a like for like replacement in the form of Adam Milne who has been with the squad training for the past two weeks."
Milne is already in the UAE with the team, having been selected in the squad as traveling injury cover, but won't be available to play until ICC approval has been received, making him unavailable for the game against Pakistan. The ICC's technical committee approved the replacement shortly after New Zealand's game against Pakistan, which meant Milne would now be available for selection for New Zealand's remaining games in the tournament.*
Both Ferguson and Milne were involved in the second leg of IPL 2021 played in UAE, for Kolkata Knight Riders and Mumbai Indians respectively. While Ferguson played eight matches for Knight Riders, including the eliminator, the second qualifier and the final, Milne played only three games for Mumbai.
Ferguson was instrumental in Knight Riders reaching the final, taking wickets with high pace and accuracy while not giving up too many runs. He had an off-day in the title match against Chennai Super Kings though, going for 56 runs in four overs. In the seven previous games, he had given up more than 30 runs only once.
Milne began well for Mumbai but a combination of an expensive game and Mumbai's need to lengthen their batting line-up meant he sat out after that. However, he came into the IPL's second leg on the back of a terrific show in the the Hundred, where he was not only one of the joint top-four wicket takers, but also had the best economy rate of all bowlers while regularly cranking up speeds of over 90mph. Milne has also bowled more balls in T20 cricket in 2021 than he has in any other year so far.
Speaking to NZC before New Zealand's T20 World Cup campaign, Milne had said he would keep his preparations on track, in case he was drafted into the main squad from the reserves.
"I'm just going to go about it how I would usually if I was in the team," Milne said. "Just try and train and play hard, prepare as well as I can. If something happens, I know I've got a chance and I'm ready to go.
"It's been good to be injury free. I played in the Vitality Blast in England, the Hundred, and then the second half of the IPL. Excited to be back and playing, it's been a great year. Being on the park is a great start. I've had a lot of trouble with that so it's been nice to sort of be able to play consistent cricket. It allows you to work on your game rather than go in starts and stops. (You) take the good performances with the bad ones and hopefully ride out that wave of cricket that comes.
"It's nice to be around the New Zealand boys after having been away for so long. It's a nice environment."
*This copy was updated at 6.10pm GMT with the ICC's technical committee approving Milne as Ferguson's replacement, and at 10.00am GMT (October 27) with the news of Martin Guptill's injury.