New Zealand were struck with a big blow on the eve of their ICC Champions Trophy Group B game against South Africa as their main pacer Shane Bond was ruled out of the battle between the former champions.
New Zealand general manager Lindsay Crocker said in the pre-match media conference at the Brabourne Stadium on Sunday: “Shane has stiffness and restriction in the back after Friday's warm-up game (against Baroda). He will not be considered for Monday and will be reassessed on Tuesday.”
Kiwi skipper Stephen Fleming admitted “it was disappointing to miss Shane for the opener”, but added: “We have been able to deal with it in the past, and we will have to do it again tomorrow.”
Bond, who is recuperating from a back injury, skipped New Zealand's first warm-up game against Mumbai, but played in the second against Baroda.
Fleming stressed that they don't want to take any risk with Bond keeping the long season in mind. “He has had back problems for a long time,” he said. “So we wouldn't like to take in risk taking the long season, especially the World Cup, into consideration.”
That's not all. The Black Caps have more injury worries. Scott Styris, who is recovering from a back injury, is a doubtful starter for the Monday's game. “He had a hamstring strain during the warm-up game (against Baroda),” Fleming said. “But he will be in contention (for selection).”
The South Africans, on the other hand, are a fit lot. “All the guys are fully fit,” skipper Graeme Smith said. “We have worked really hard to get used to the heat in our eight to nine days in India.” Smith, however, said they will not be targetting any individual in the Kiwi side. “The key is that they play well as a side,” said the left-handed batsman, making a comeback to international cricket after a three-month injury layoff. “They bat deep down the order and they have plenty of bowling options. And they are always well-prepared.”
Though Smith did not take any questions on Herschelle Gibbs, who was interrogated by the Delhi police for his alleged involvement in the match-fixing scandal, the former was the first to have a go in the nets. Hinting that Gibbs' place in the playing XI is not under any threat. Both South Africa, who had won the inaugural Champions Trophy in 1998, and New Zealand, who won the mini-World Cup in 2000, haven't played much international cricket of late.
“The opening game is very crucial for us,” Fleming said. “The format of the tournament is such that we can't take any game lightly.”
Smith also emphasised the importance of the game, saying: “We are in a group where Pakistan and Sri Lanka are both the teams in form. So we have to start well on Monday.”
Smith, however, conceded that the slower pitch conditions will help New Zealand. “They have plenty of slower bowlers who could gain from the conditions,” Smith said. “However, we hope that out lone spinner, Robin Peterson, makes full use of the opportunities. Also, pace has been our traditional strength, so we will be relying on our pace bowlers.”
Fleming, on the other hand, hinted that New Zealand could go in with two specialist spinners, with offie Jeetan Patel accompanying left-armer Daniel Vettori.
“With Shane unavailable, we are certainly considering the option.”
New strip for Monday
After a low-scoring affair between the West Indies and Sri Lanka on Saturday, both the skippers had said it was a 220-wicket.
However, Monday will see another virgin wicket, as the game will be played on the track adjacent to the Saturday's. We may expect some more runs as the wickets wouldn't offer any early moisture as it did the other day. Curator Keki Kotwal had blamed the Windies batsmen for batting poorly after their debacle.