Preparations for the ICC Men's Cricket World Cup opener between England and New Zealand have been disrupted with news that key players from both sides are likely to miss the game.
New Zealand will be without the services of pacer Tim Southee and regular captain Kane Williamson. On the other hand, England are doubtful about the availability of their star all-rounder, Ben Stokes.
Speaking to reporters ahead of the World Cup opener in Ahmedabad, New Zealand stand-in captain Tom Latham confirmed the make-up of his likely XI to take on the reigning champions.
"Yeah I guess any team that doesn't have Kane in it is obviously...we'd certainly be better off having him," Latham said. "But I think from our point of view for him to be here, to be at the World Cup is a testament to, I think the work that he's put on over the last four to five months to be where he is."
Latham hoped that Williamson's appearance in the two World Cup warm-ups was a positive development.
"So for him it's a day-by-day process in terms of where his recovery is at," Latham noted.
"He's obviously played a little bit of a part of the last two warm-up games. You know he's been batting beautifully which is great to see and he was out in the field a couple of days ago so he's progressing really nicely and fingers crossed he's on the park sooner rather than later."
Latham added that Southee was still on the recovery road after his injury against England last month.
"He (Southee) is unavailable for selection just in terms of what happened to his thumb a couple of weeks ago, but he's recovering nicely," Latham said.
"I think he's nearly two weeks post-surgery so fingers crossed he can keep recovering. It's a bit of a day-by-day process with him in terms of what that looks like too. But fingers crossed he'll be available sooner rather than later as well."
The England camp, too, are suffering from concerns of their own. Skipper Jos Buttler stated that Stokes was battling a hip issue and no certainty to take on the Kiwis.
"We've been nursing a few guys over the last month or so. Hopefully we'll have a clean bill of health to pick from. He (Stokes) got a slight sort of niggle with his hip, but fingers crossed that that'll be good news for us. He's working hard with the physios and we'll know more when the guys arrive for training today," Buttler said.
Buttler said the team would try to play safe in the early stages, and were willing to take more risks later on in the tournament.
"Whether he (Stokes) is not fit to play, he's not fit to play. If he is, then we can make that decision. But it's not a time to take big risks on someone at the start of the tournament. Nearer the end, maybe do take more of a risk with people's injuries. But, yeah, it's going to be a long tournament," Buttler added.
England and New Zealand face-off in the Cricket World Cup opener tomorrow, 5 October, at Ahmedabad in what is a rematch of the epic final from the most recent tournament in 2019.