Williamson’s recovery relied on data from other sports

The team looking after Kane Williamson post his knee injury, relied heavily on data from injuries in other sports to get him back in shape for the ICC World Cup, the premier New Zealand batter said on Thursday.

The skipper will be playing his first match of the 2023 World Cup in New Delhi on Friday, having recovered from a surgery to treat a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in his right knee.

“A lot of data around it, mainly from other sports that were relied on and different strength numbers and heights and jumping and just heaps and heaps of different bits,” Williamson said on the eve of their match against Bangladesh.

Returning to international cricket after a long layoff, he said it has been “quite a journey”.

“As for my recovery, it’s been quite a journey, but largely a good one that’s had some really good progress, and you know, I’ve said a number of times, really excited to be named in the World Cup squad, be sitting here now and really excited at the prospect of tomorrow, which is another big challenge for us,” he said during the pre-match press conference.

Williamson suffered the injury while playing for Gujarat Titans in IPL 2023 and has not played cricket since then.

Elaborating on his recovery phase, Williamson added, “The recovery journey certainly started with strength and range in terms of the knee and then gradually trying to improve that and control some of the pain around it as the load increases, and we could be here all day talking about it.

“But, I’ll fast forward a little bit — and great to be here and then get involved in those warm-up games which were really, really enjoyable and then during those and post that were a lot of sort of return to play fitness parts which were perhaps a little bit more related to fielding, time on feet and looking to try and execute some of those skills.

“And so, yeah, I mean each week throughout the last period of time since I’ve been, I guess, rehabilitating has been really important and really valuable. So, it was nice to get a little bit of that time in the last week or two.”

Williamson was on the verge of missing the tournament at one point. However, he said that he was not bothered by it or rushing for a return, and instead focused on his rehab.

“It was probably a good thing just to get my head stuck into rehab and each day and not sort of rush it, and that was really my focus, and I was fortunate as well.

“I had a really, really good team around me back home and also fortunate not to have a lot of setbacks during that time.

“So there were lots of little steps forward which I guess accumulate to being here now really and getting close and realising that if each week does keep progressing well, ticking off all those sorts of milestones along the way, which there are many of them, then there might be a chance.

“And yeah, grateful that that was something that could be done and getting named in the squad was a really exciting moment.”

Williamson also had an elbow niggle during the 2021 ICC T20 World Cup in Dubai.

On being asked about the nature of both injuries, he said, “Quite different injuries, but yeah, I suppose speaking about this one there were lots of quite clear steps along the way that you were trying to tick off different milestones in terms of returning to the next phases and those sorts of things.”

New Zealand fell agonisingly short of winning the title in 2019 when England were declared winners via the boundary countback rule after the heart-stopping final at the Lord’s had ended in a tie.

Williamson said they drew inspiration from the All Blacks, New Zealand’s three-time World-Cup winning rugby team, who face Ireland in the tournament’s quarter-finals on Saturday.

“I think when we were growing up, we all wanted to be All Blacks and that couldn’t happen so we tried something else,” the batter said.

“We’re here as a cricket team but I think something that you do hear often about their side is their culture, their environment, and their ability to keep moving forward as a team and adapting to what’s in front of them…”

“And they keep doing really well at staying ahead of that curve.”

Looking at their next match, Williamson said New Zealand could not afford to underestimate Bangladesh especially at a spin-friendly venue like Chennai.

“We come into this tournament knowing that anybody can beat anybody. That makes a really exciting event I think and the conditions are always going to change,” he said.

“I think both teams have some good spin bowlers that no doubt will play a big part tomorrow.” 

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