NZ heartened by Williamson's progress on Cup eve

A rematch of the 2019 final opens this year's World Cup but New Zealand will be missing key pair Kane Williamson and Tim Southee

New Zealand captain Kane Williamson spent the last few months nursing a knee injury but the form he has showed since his return ahead of the 50-over World Cup made it seem like he was never gone, stand-in skipper Tom Latham says.

Williamson's participation at the event was thrown into doubt when he underwent surgery for a torn anterior cruciate ligament in April but he has impressed with knocks of 54 and 37 in warm-up games against Pakistan and South Africa recently.

The 33-year-old will skip their tournament opener against defending champions England on Thursday to build up his fitness, but Latham is delighted with his progress.

"It's great to see Kane back and to see him batting," Latham told reporters on Wednesday. "It's like he never left, to be honest, in terms of batting.

"It's great to see him moving really well too. He's playing all the shots he used to play.

Williamson at training in Ahmedabad on Wednesday // Getty

"To see him back on the field is another stepping stone in terms of where he needs to get to in terms of his recovery."

Latham will lead New Zealand in a rematch of the 2019 final, where England were awarded the title by a boundary countback after a tied Super Over, but he said his team would treat their opener at the 132,000 capacity Narendra Modi Stadium like any other game.

"Leading into a game, there's always anticipation of what it's going to be like. But for us it's about trying to do what we do really well," Latham said.

"The good thing about this group is that we stay really level and we've done that for a long period of time.

"Even though it's a massive occasion for us ... it's just another game and if we do what we do well, we'll give ourselves a good chance towards the back end of the game."

Tim Southee will also miss the Black Caps' tournament opener in Ahmedabad as he continues his recovery from surgery on a dislocated thumb two weeks ago.

Southee injured his right thumb attempting a catch during the fourth ODI against England on September 15. His and Williamson's exclusion from the opening game of the World Cup means the Kiwis only have 13 players to pick from.

"It's a bit of a day-by-day process, fingers crossed he'll be available sooner rather than later as well," Latham said.