New Zealand will look to make most of their last World Cup league match against Sri Lanka on Friday after captain Daniel Vettori and key fast bowler Kyle Mills were ruled out over fitness issues.
It is an important match for the Black Caps as a positive result could assure them a top-two finish in Group A and a potentially more comfortable quarter-final opponent from Group B.
New Zealand have emerged as the tournament’s dark horses, winning their past three matches, including an emphatic 110-run victory against the talent-packed but unpredictable Pakistan, their fourth success out of five.
The Black Caps have stumbled only once, against four-time champions Australia, but they appear to have put that blip behind them.
Sri Lanka vice-captain Mahela Jayawardene said his team could not take the Kiwis lightly despite them not being at full-strength for the day-night clash at the Wankhede Stadium.
“Those two guys (Vettori and Kyle) probably are the senior-most bowlers in their line up,” said Jayawardene. “But we can’t take things lightly. What I have seen of New Zealand is that they always play as a unit.
“Especially with Daniel and Mills not being there, they might get together and have a different gameplan against us. That’s something we have to look out for. For us it’s all about making sure we execute our plans well.”
New Zealand stand-in captain Ross Taylor tried to play down the absences.
“It’s disappointing not to have them for the match but their absence gives an opportunity for someone else to step up and perform their role,” said Taylor.
“We are looking at having Mills and Vettori fit for the quarter-finals. Their injuries have come along fine but they probably are not ready for this match.”
Veteran fast bowler Daryl Tuffey has been called up to the squad as cover for Mills.
Taylor said the Black Caps would have to choose whether to go in with an extra bowler in left-arm spinner Luke Woodcock or an extra all-rounder.
“Luke Woodcock comes into the twelve. We have to discuss what balance we go in with, an extra bowler or an extra all-rounder,” he said.
Runners-up in the 2007 edition, Sri Lanka have cantered to easy wins over Canada, Kenya and Zimbabwe but lost to Pakistan and saw their much-anticipated clash against Australia abandoned due to rain.
They have also brushed aside the issue of having to play their final league game in Mumbai despite being one of the tournament co-hosts.
“When we came to India, we had a couple of really good days when we played some games together and had some activities,” said Jayawardene.
“It’s a good thing for the team as well to come out of Sri Lanka and bond together, and analyse a bit more as a team what we need to do.”