New Zealand expect record-breaking batsman Kane Williamson will be “ready to go” when their Test series starts against Sri Lanka on Thursday, despite his late arrival because of a bereavement.
Williamson has remained at home in the build-up to attend a memorial service on Wednesday for his grandmother.
Ahead of the opening Test in Christchurch, captain Tim Southee said the Black Caps were “feeling for Kane at the moment”.
Southee said that while Williamson had not been part of the team’s preparations he had trained with his domestic side “so I am sure he will be hitting plenty of balls and making sure he is ready to go come Thursday”.
The 32-year-old Williamson is key to New Zealand’s chances in the two-Test series.
He overtook Ross Taylor to become their highest run-scorer in history in last month’s second Test against England, when the hosts won by just one run in Wellington to draw the series.
Williamson’s grandmother made headlines recently in New Zealand when she rang a radio talkshow to criticise a caller who complained the cricketer’s undemonstrative style made him look “disinterested” at times.
“We’re not a family that goes yahooing around,” she said.
Speaking on the eve of the first Test, Southee said his players had moved on from the extraordinary England triumph.
“It is a match that will be talked about for a long time, but they are a very humble group, now our focus will shift to Sri Lanka,” he said.
Visitors Sri Lanka have plenty to play for – they need to sweep the series to keep alive their hopes of making the World Test Championship final.
New Zealand are the reigning champions but out of contention for the current competition.
Sri Lanka need to win the two Tests and hope India lose their upcoming fourth Test against Australia to make the final.
“I don’t want to put pressure on the boys, but everyone knows this is a must-win,” said Sri Lanka captain Dimuth Karunaratne.
“We’re in the top-three right now, so we have one hurdle and everyone knows where we are now.”
Sri Lanka have only won two of 19 Tests in New Zealand, most recently in 2006.