Jesse Ryder has already talked game plans with opening partner Martin Guptill and hopes to light up Eden Park in his one-day international comeback on Boxing Day.
The gifted left-hander will don the black helmet for the first time in 22 months, after being recalled for Thursday's ODI series opener against West Indies in Auckland.
And it will be alongside one of his best mates in the team, Guptill, who also makes his return from finger and ankle injuries that ruled him out of the Bangladesh and Sri Lanka tours.
"Guppy and I have had a chat since the team's been named and we're stoked to be back opening together and hopefully we can light it up on Boxing Day," Ryder said.
News of Ryder's off-field struggles have dominated much of the past two years, since he played the last of his 39 ODIs against South Africa in Napier in February 2012.
Having bounced back from a serious assault in Christchurch in March, then hit form with his new team Otago, Ryder still felt surprised to get the call from selector Bruce Edgar earlier in the week.
"It's just exciting. I've put in a lot of hard yards this summer; scoring runs and being consistent and working hard off the park and it's paid off for me."
This time last year Ryder was hitting domestic bowlers all over the park on return from a cricketing hiatus, guiding Wellington to the Twenty20 final and leading them to Plunket Shield victories.
But he was unavailable for New Zealand as he addressed off-field issues and put his success down to simply batting and not caring about the consequences.
Then the assault happened and turned his life upside down, leaving his career in limbo.
A year on, and with his new team Otago, and he's been focused on returning to the Black Caps since his comeback century against Wellington in October.
The pressure sat well with the 29-year-old, who averages 34 in ODI cricket, and he scored a century and two 80s from his last five first-class innings.
"It's probably been a lot better for me. I've knuckled down and tried to build a plan around batting and I've been taking my time and batting properly and not having the no-care factor and just playing my shots. It's been good to be patient and build an innings."
Being consistent and losing weight provided his big focus.
He credited Otago coach Vaughn Johnson; "he knows me pretty well and how I go about my business", and early morning sessions with the team's fitness trainer Adam Keen.
"Keeno's done a good job and smashed me a bit, so it's a big shout out to him."
Ryder still has a Plunket Shield match for Otago against Central Districts to complete before he focuses on his batting approach against the West Indies.
He was looking forward to returning to the New Zealand team environment, where captain Brendon McCullum had backed him all the way.
"I can't even remember what it's like, it's been that long. I just know there's going to be a lot of excitement, come Boxing Day."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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