Kane Williamson will be the cynosure of all eyes as the New Zealand captain will look to get maximum game time when the Black Caps take on Pakistan in the first World Cup warm-up match at the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium here on Friday.
Williamson will return to action for the first time since recovering from his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury that he suffered during the IPL (Indian Premier League) in March 2023.
Although the New Zealand skipper was handed the captaincy mantle following a rehab, the 2019 World Cup player of the tournament will be cautious in his approach after a six-month lay-off.
New Zealand has been jolted with injuries as Tim Southee dislocated his thumb during the team’s fourth ODI against England, while Michael Bracewell and Mitchell Santner suffered injuries.
Southee will be available for selection when the team begins its World Cup campaign with fast bowler Kyle Jamieson being drafted into the side as a cover.
Leg-spinner Ish Sodhi will look to make an impact along with spin bowling all-rounder Rachin Ravindra, who impressed with a three-wicket haul against England.
Williamson, who is set to play in his fourth World Cup, remains the fulcrum in the batting department, with Will Young, Devon Conway, and Daryl Mitchell playing the supporting roles with the bat.
All-rounder Mark Chapman will look to stamp his authority, while Tom Latham will take over the wicket-keeping duties and it will be a test of character with New Zealand not naming a back-up wicket-keeper for the tournament.
Lockie Ferguson will be itching to dish out bouncers along with his pace bowling partners on what promises to be a sporting track. The wicket has traditionally supported batters, but the bowlers have purchased swing early in the innings when the game starts, and the spinners get assistance gradually as the game rolls by.
Pakistan, led by Babar Azam, drafted Hasan Ali at the last minute after Naseem Shah failed to recover from a shoulder injury, and the fast bowler will look to get a taste of Indian conditions.
While the trio of Shaheen Afridi, Haris Rauf, and Mohammad Wasim comprise the pace attack, Pakistan packed an extra leg-spinner in Usama Mir.
Along with Babar, the likes of Fakhar Zaman, Imam-ul-Haq, Mohammed Rizwan, and Iftikhar Ahmed will look for a good hit, as the men in green would like to make a statement in the World Cup after a disastrous Asia Cup campaign where they finished last in the Super Four stage.
The build-up to the tournament has been huge, with vast security deployments in and around the city radius and the match being played behind closed doors due to two religious festivals culminating on the same day.
However, the stadium, painted fresh and equipped with state-of-the-art facilities, is all set to host the matches, with locals gearing up to witness another festival, this time the World Cup.
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