New Zealand head coach Gary Stead has cautioned captain Kane Williamson against "over-hitting" in the nets after his elbow complaint flared up during the warm-up fixtures in the lead-up to the T20 World Cup. Williamson captained the side and fielded during New Zealand's most recent warm-up against England on Wednesday, but didn't bat in their pursuit of 164.
Williamson missed New Zealand's first warm-up, against Netherlands, with a niggly hamstring. He then came back in against Australia, top-scoring for New Zealand with 37 off 30 balls, but aggravated his elbow, a problem that he has been managing in the recent past.
"I think we're still pretty hopeful and confident that if we get the rest right, initially here now, and get that balance right then he should be right to play," Stead said. "I mean Kane is a prodigious hitter of balls, he loves to prepare that way as well, and in some ways that's probably the worst thing he can do, is over-hit at times. So, it's really [about] getting that balance right, between feeling ready and feeling prepared to go, and making sure we don't aggravate anything any further."
Mark Chapman also missed the game against Netherlands with a hamstring niggle but slotted into the middle order against England, although he was dismissed for 1 off 5 balls. Meanwhile, Tim Seifert, who had suffered an abdominal strain, returned to his dual role of opening the batting and wicketkeeping on Wednesday.
"Good to have Tim [Seifert] back, he just had a very minor abdominal strain and so he's recovered well," Stead said. "Played full part today and no issues at all. Mark [Chapman] had his first run back for a while as well and got through the games nicely, so again we will see how he scrubs up tomorrow morning when the physio looks at him; just to check over where he's at. Kane's elbow has just flared up a little bit after the last match and so it was more precautionary than anything. We just feel if we can get his preparation right in terms of not over-hitting and aggravating it through training, then it gives him the best chance to be right through the tournament. I think on the whole we're tracking pretty well."
Stead was particularly wary of the Sharjah pitches that were relaid ahead of the UAE leg of the IPL. He admitted that Sharjah tracks could pose a greater challenge to the batters than the ones in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. New Zealand will open their T20 World Cup campaign against Pakistan in Sharjah and will play one more match, against a qualifier from the first round, at the venue.
"Yes, it looks that way from what we've seen," Stead said. "Look, they [teams] haven't played there since the semi-finals of the IPL, so there's probably about a ten-day period there where, who knows, it could be better and even through the IPL we saw, I think, where KKR scored 170 there in one game as well. So sometimes you don't want to overthink what it might be, but you do want an idea at the back of your mind how you believe it will play. And we have that in our mind now, we just have to make sure we're really clear on our strategy around how we get there and adapt if we need to."
Stead wasn't too perturbed by New Zealand's back-to-back defeats in the official warm-ups against Australia and England, reckoning his side got the game-time they needed.
"Certainly not the result of them - hasn't [affected us] at all," he said. "We had the game against Australia that went down to the last couple of balls. I think from our perspective we didn't bowl out all of our bowlers we thought would bowl at the time and I know Australia sent in an opening batsman to come in at No.9 as well, which you normally wouldn't see in that situation.
"Versus England, I think it was little bit more of bowling… we wanted to make sure [Daryl] Mitchell and [Glenn] Phillips had an over, for example, and just making sure they were ready if they do get the opportunity further down the track. So, there's a lot of things: we retired Daryl Mitchell in one of them as well, so it's really about us trying to get the best out of the warm-up games - what we felt that we needed. And overall, we got that, which was really good."
Deivarayan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo