Kane Williamson‘s summer of niggles continues. A hamstring strain has left him doubtful for the second ODI against England, the latest ailment for the New Zealand captain in a hectic season but one that coach Mike Hesson insisted was not part of any longer-term issues.
Even though Williamson is below his best form – he laboured for 8 off 23 balls in Hamilton having made just one score of note in the T20 tri-series – given his importance to New Zealand there is a sharp intake of breath whenever a problem is reported.
However, inside the team there is confidence that they can overcome the loss of the captain should he not be available on Wednesday. Mark Chapman, the left-hander who made his New Zealand debut in the T20 tri-series, would earn his first ODI cap for them – he played twice for Hong Kong, scoring a century on debut against the UAE in 2015 – while Tim Southee would take the captaincy having previously led New Zealand twice this season in T20s against West Indies and Pakistan, winning both.
When Williamson was rested from a brace of ODIs against West Indies earlier in the summer Tom Latham took over the captaincy after he led the team in Ireland last year. However, Southee was also rested for the West Indies matches and now he is back in the side he is the official vice-captain.
“It would be a big blow, Kane is a high-quality player, but we have to have confidence in our squad as well,” Hesson said. “They’ll be some minor adjustments but during the year when Kane hasn’t played we’ve been able to put in a performance so it won’t an excuse.”
“We always want to Kane to play, don’t get me wrong, he’s a quality leader but your side has to be good enough to deal with things from time-to-time. That is the advantage of using slightly different players throughout the year, Chappy isn’t coming in for his first game – he’s played against these guys a week or so ago.”
Though Hesson remained bullish, there may be a concern about the cumulative effect of the issues that have afflicted Williamson this season. He missed a T20 against Pakistan with a mild side strain and was a doubt for the T20 against England in Wellington with a stiff back, but was able to play and was Man of the Match for his 72, his only double-figure score of the tournament.
“He’s had a few niggles over the past few months, this is just a hamstring strain but he has to make sure he’s 100%,” Hesson said. “The ground the other day was quite soft so think the guys found it quite heavy on the legs. We are hopeful he’ll be fine but we aren’t sure.”
Managing one of their most important players in Williamson is an on-going balancing act for New Zealand. A hectic home season concludes with two Tests against England next month and while New Zealand do not play again until October, Williamson will then head to the IPL for Sunrisers Hyderbad before a county stint with Yorkshire.
Though it is Chapman who will earn his chance if Williamson is unavailable, the position would have gone to George Worker but the Central Districts batsman was ruled out having stood on a ball during the Ford Trophy final. Whether Chapman would be a straight swap at No. 3 remains to be seen. It could be the more experienced Ross Taylor, fresh from his 18th ODI century, steps up a place or another option would be Latham who previously had a lengthy stint opening.
Latham has since moved down to No. 5 and taken the keeping gloves to give balance to the side. He helped revive New Zealand’s chase in Hamilton with 79, his second-highest ODI score at home, and said the new role was still something he was adjusting to.
“It’s been a bit of a change since India and taking the gloves. It’s been enjoyable and I’m still learning from different situations. In the middle your game changes so much depending on the situation so it’s about knowing when to adapt.”