Black Caps captain Kane Williamson is set to make his cricket return, as he prepares – and hopes – for a bumper summer schedule.
Williamson is in the United Arab Emirates for the Indian Premier League, which is set to get under way on September 19 after a five-month delay due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Williamson returns to Sunrisers Hyderabad after a 2019 campaign where he comparatively struggled (156 runs at 22.3 and a 120 strike rate) after a stunning 2018 (735 runs at 52.5 and a 142 SR).
After several Kiwi players made their successful returns in the Caribbean Premier League, Williamson is hopeful, but still slightly nervous, that the IPL will run smoothly.
"There's always that little bit of apprehension – it's an unknown, travelling abroad at the moment. Hopefully all things will be safe and healthy," he said.
"It's pretty exciting that they've been able to get the competition to go ahead and everyone involved. Hopefully it all runs smoothly and I know the Kiwi guys who haven't played for some time are pretty excited to get back into it."
Williamson hasn't played a competitive match since March 13, and is looking on the bright side of being able to enjoy a rare extended break due to the Covid shutdown of international sport.
"We've done our best to try and have a bit of a pre-season. It's been nice after having such a hectic schedule to try and use this time to have a bit of a breather.
"Guys are always managing their bodies when they're playing so there was an opportunity for a conditioning window and to try and get on top of a few bits and pieces before the season starts."
The IPL will – all going to plan – act as a lead in to a busy summer schedule for the Black Caps, who are hoping that the West Indies, Pakistan, Australia and Bangladesh will all be able to tour New Zealand from late November.
Weekend of premier-grade cricket coming to Taupō
'One to watch': Marton schoolgirl turning heads for her school's first XV
Cutting edge advertising: NRL club's surprising new sponsor
That plan still requires sign-off from the Government in terms of quarantine facilities, and is reliant upon the country maintaining or improving from alert level 2 restrictions, but Williamson is excited at the prospect of a full home summer.
"The guys will be excited to try and get back to some sort of normality. When it's summertime here it's great to have cricket on and hopefully levels relax and we can have crowds again. It's exciting, the prospect of having a summer full of cricket."
Williamson will continue his relationship with Gary Stead, with the Black Caps head coach earlier this week re-signing until the 2023 World Cup.
"A really exciting opportunity for Steady being back on board – quite a natural progression. A couple of years in the role and has seen a lot of growth and we both want to see the team keep moving in that same direction. We've got that chance to do that now, and put our heads together and plan, reflect, and look forward to what's coming up."