Cricket: Blackcaps captain Kane Williamson breaks silence on devastating World Cup injury blow

Blackcaps white-ball captain Kane Williamson has opened up on the devastating injury blow that has all but ended his World Cup ambitions.

Making his debut for Gujarat Lions in the opening match of the Indian Premier League season in April, Williamson ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament attempting a spectacular catch on the boundary.

His IPL campaign over, he returned to New Zealand immediately, where he underwent surgery on the ACL tear. 

The expected recovery timeframe of nine months - at a minimum - will almost certainly rule him out of the upcoming one-day international World Cup in India, which starts in early October and runs through until mid November.

Coach Gary Stead has been reluctant to draw a line through Williamson's name but has conceded it's "unlikely" he'll have his premier batter's services.

Speaking publicly for the first time since sustaining the injury, Williamson was defiant about his chances of being ready in time for the Cup, refusing to rule himself out of contention for the tournament and maintaining his focus is on gradual day-by-day improvement.

Williamson suffered the injury in the opening game of the IPL.
Williamson suffered the injury in the opening game of the IPL. Photo credit: Getty Images

"It's a long journey, and the only thing that can be measured is at the end of a week and at the end of a month," he told Newshub. "There's so many of those to go (until the World Cup).

"It's a difficult question to answer. There's no decision made, which is the only thing I'm sure about.

"In my own mind, I want to be getting back and playing as quickly as possible. But I also know it's something that can't be rushed.  You can push but to a certain extent, and I've been really grateful around me that can help me with that because otherwise I probably would've been surfing two weeks ago

"It is trying to do it well and do it properly. The focus is on getting the injury back to full strength and you can only hope that coincides with a few other things that I'm interested in doing and being part of.

"But it's so far away, so it's tough to entertain too much because the work between now and then - there's a lot. That's the focus and mother nature has got a bit to do with it as well 

"We'll see where we land."

The first sign of Williamson's progress is in the absence of any crutches, with Monday being the first day he's discarded them.

For now, he insists his main goal is striking a balance between working his way back to full fitness for the World Cup while ensuring the long-term health of his knee.

"[The World Cup] is something that naturally any player in any sport that has these sorts of events want to be involved in, but I also want to keep playing cricket after that time," he explained.

Kane Williamson.
Kane Williamson. Photo credit: Getty Images

"The focus is getting my knee back to full health and then be ready to play again. If that marries up with these other things that would be amazing.

"It is on the shorter side of the timeframe, which isn't ideal. But I still want to be playing post that."

Williamson would leave an enormous void in the NZ World Cup squad, both with the bat and his leadership and experience at pinnacle events. 

Through the summer prior to the injury, the world's No.2 ranked test batter had been in vintage form, with centuries in consecutive thrillers against England and Sri Lanka, bookended by double tons against Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

His last outing at ODI level for New Zealand was in Karachi in January, where he averaged 54.66 runs through three games.

Since giving up the test captaincy at the end of 2022, Williamson has struck four centuries - two of them doubles - with 756 runs at an average of 94.50.

The injury will also deny the 32-year-old the chance to avenge the Blackcaps' heartbreaking defeat in the final against England at Lord's back in 2019, at a tournament where he averaged 82.57 runs and scored two centuries on his way to being named its best player overall.

While all signs indicate Williamson won't take to the pitch in India, Stead has confirmed he'll still travel to India to operate in a mentor-type role.

Williamson admitted it had initially taken some time for him to come to terms with the severity of the injury, which is more commonly associated with explosive sports like rugby and basketball.

"When it first happened, [missing the World Cup] didn't cross my mind because I never entertained the thoughtof this length of time being what it would be.""

It's not an injury that's spoken about in cricket so I'm largely unaware of it - to getting the news news and doing the math and trying to work out what that looked like."

"Naturally you want to be at every major event. They only happen every four years. It was confonting getting that news and trying to come to terms with that.

"But we're here now and that truly is the reality. It's about week to week and it's about those small gains."

Three months on, that sense of shock is well behind him, with the daily grind of rehabilitation now a reality he's fully embraced.

Williamson. Photo credit: Getty Images

"There's been some good progress. I've just been following the plan. It's week by week. It's the small steps forward 

"There's that balance there. There's that desire in you to push hard but it doesn't work like that. It's marrying it up with what a week looks like and what progress looks like and it's not out the gate. It's steady.

"That's been the focus and, so far, there's been some nice progress, which is motivating. When you turn up to the gym and you're a bit limited in some of the things you're doing but the things you are doing you're seeing some small steps forward.

"That's all I can ask for at the moment."

The situation has also provided Williamson a sobering sense of perspective on his cricketing career, with the silver lining of some unscheduled quality - and rejuvenating - time with his family.

"It's been basically rehab and family time. I have two young kids, I've had a bit of fun there so it's been great in that respect.

"You also think about having played for a number of years and being quite grateful that you haven't had something as significant as this earlier. You have your little bits and pieces and you try to rationalise it a bit in your own mind and without a doubt value playing the sport you love.

"You had all of these plans and you were meant to be here and there and doing all of these other things so it sits you down and everything changes quite quickly.

"The focus is just the day-to-day work that is going into my rehab and the real desire to get back playing the sport that I Iove."

Will Young and Daryl Mitchell appear to be the frontrunners to replace Williamson at the all-important No.3 spot in the Blackcaps' batting line-up for the showpiece event, while Tom Latham would step into the captaincy role.