Vettori tipped to make return in shorter format

MARK GEENTY
Last updated 05:00 24/12/2013
Daniel Vettori
Getty Images
INJURY PRONE: Daniel Vettori is on the comeback trail.

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The welcome mat is out for Daniel Vettori to return to the New Zealand team next month, but more likely twirling the white cricket ball than the red.

New Zealand's premier spinner took 1-21 for Brisbane Heat in their first-up win in Australia's Twenty20 Big Bash League on Sunday, and he is committed to the Heat till their final round-robin match on January 23.

That would free Vettori up to return for the final two one-day internationals against India in Hamilton on January 28 - the day after his 35th birthday - and Wellington on January 31.

The former skipper's last ODI, his 275th, was against England in June before he had Achilles surgery.

He made a speedy recovery and an impressive comeback in first-class and T20 cricket for Northern Districts, and remains the best limited-overs spinner in the country.

Captain Brendon McCullum said he'd spoken to a "sprightly" Vettori in recent days. "He looks young, fresh, fit and healthy which is great because he's been fighting some tough physical battles over the last few years."

Coach Mike Hesson would like Vettori involved this summer, with the World Cup at home in 14 months' time an obvious target.

"We'll reassess things when he comes back from Australia and see how his body is, but I know he's desperately keen to be involved and he certainly adds an awful lot to our group in all areas. Yeah, we'd love to have him back," Hesson said.

But whether that extends to test cricket is another matter.

Hesson said he'd see how Vettori was physically before they discussed different formats.

It is understood Vettori, who opted out of a New Zealand Cricket contract this year, is not overly keen to return for the India tests on February 6 in Auckland and February 14 in Wellington. If the Heat make the Big Bash playoffs in early February he'd be unavailable anyway, and he also doesn't want to stand in the way of promising test legspinner Ish Sodhi.

Test statistics no longer drive New Zealand's second-highest wicket-taker like they once did, and various injury niggles after years of heavy workloads make test cricket a tough prospect.

It wouldn't surprise if Vettori announced his retirement from tests, was available for the World T20 in Bangladesh in March and set a target of an international hurrah at the World Cup.

The New Zealand team move to Auckland for Thursday's ODI series opener against the West Indies in buoyant mood after a crushing 2-0 test series win, and the addition of Jesse Ryder and Martin Guptill.

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But one of their test stars, Trent Boult, won't be there. Hesson didn't pick Boult in his 13-man ODI squad despite his scintillating test form where he took 20 wickets at 15.40.

Hesson said Boult would probably be seen at some stage in the 10 ODIs against West Indies and India in the next six weeks.

He needed a rest after bowling 117 overs in the three-test series, the most of any New Zealander, then would return to the Knights for the domestic T20 competition.

"He's not quite the same bowler with the white ball at the moment and he just needs a bit of confidence by playing some domestic cricket and pressing his case," Hesson said.

"Obviously the white ball doesn't swing anywhere near for as long as the red ball does so he's got different challenges but he's a fine bowler and I'm sure he'll keep asking us some good questions."

Left-armer Mitchell McClenaghan will be unleashed on West Indies with the chance to replicate his wicket-taking exploits in South Africa, New Zealand and England this year.

Young fast bowler Adam Milne also gets his chance in the absence of Tim Southee, who is expected back for Queenstown on January 1 after having minor surgery on his big toe which will sideline him for a week.

- Wellington

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