Daniel Vettori hasn't given up hope of playing at next year's World Cup but faces D-day on his international career after he returns to the nets later this month.
New Zealand's premier spin bowler reiterated his desire to push for a World Cup swansong in a year's time after a positive meeting with national coach Mike Hesson and captain Brendon McCullum in Auckland yesterday.
But the 35-year-old's troublesome back will have the final say. Vettori hasn't bowled since returning from Australia's Twenty20 Big Bash last month, and said he would have one last crack to prove his fitness for the West Indies tour from May to July. His tone was cautious, rather than bullish.
"To be fair to everyone at NZ Cricket, I sense from speaking to Hess that they need me to be proving my fitness around the West Indies tour, that's when they really want to get on and press for the World Cup," Vettori said last night.
Vettori got through seven Big Bash games on painkillers, taking seven wickets at a tidy average of 25 and economy rate of 6.25, but was barely able to walk at the end. He hasn't bowled a ball since and doesn't expect to for several weeks, thereby ruling him out of next month's World T20.
"It was a little bit worse than the past. Running around was difficult. I'll just rest up and try and get that ready. If I can then that's great and if I can't then the writing is probably on the wall.
"It's all about bowling and because I haven't done that for a couple of weeks it's hard to know. I don't want to just sit back in February with no cricket for a little while and just give it away. If I can work reasonably hard and try to push towards it [an international return] then who knows."
Vettori is off to the Indian Premier League auction next week, having become coach of Royal Challengers Bangalore. He will test out his back after that, and if fit could potentially return for Northern Districts in the domestic one-day competition later next month.
The West Indies itinerary hasn't been released but it is expected to start with tests in late May, then one-dayers and T20s in late June. Hesson hoped Vettori would be ready by then, at the end of his IPL coaching commitments.
"There's plenty of water to pass under the bridge but the key is we're very keen for Dan to still be available for the Black Caps and Dan is still really keen to play. That's the priority," Hesson said.
"We're going to have to be pretty rigorous in terms of what we see from him and whether we're going to select him [for the West Indies]. Hopefully he can play some cricket before the end of the season."
Vettori's impressive form in the Big Bash shows how much of an asset he remains in limited overs cricket, even when struggling with injury. He played the last of his 275 ODIs for New Zealand at the Champions League in England last June where he was excellent despite bowling on one leg with an Achilles tendon injury. He underwent surgery in England and it was deemed a success as he made an impressive return for ND in four-day and T20 cricket before Christmas.
"He's a world class operator and if he's operating at peak form then any team in the world would have him, and we're no different," Hesson said.
- Fairfax Media
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