Aggressive Grant Elliott right back in the mix
Not only was Grant Elliott in danger of losing his spot in Wellington's Plunket Shield side before Christmas, he was questioning his future in cricket.
Two years without an international appearance, and being told he did not feature in New Zealand's plans will do that.
A Corey Anderson broken finger changed everything, and all-rounder Elliott has not looked back. A late callup to his homeland, and in back-to-back innings in Kimberley and Potchefstroom, reminded everyone why he was originally deemed good enough, in England in 2008. An ODI spot against England, and beyond to the Champions Trophy in June, appears his.
"When I had my review two years ago with [former coach] John Wright I got the feeling I was totally out of the mix," Elliott said.
"I've got a young family, and with professional sport you reassess your goals when you get a bit older on a yearly basis. I kept reassessing it. Without playing for New Zealand it is a bit more difficult to motivate yourself."
Elliott's callup raised a few eyebrows, including his own. Musing with his Wellington coach Jamie Siddons on Anderson's replacement, he assumed a test batsman would stay on. But captain Brendon McCullum was a key backer and wanted Elliott's experience.
"My game came together at the right time; we [Wellington] played an aggressive brand of cricket and I tried to lead that."
Siddons gets some plaudits for Elliott's career revival. The Australian arrived and implored his new charges to hit the ball harder and over the fence often.
"My skill level has improved quite a bit. I've worked a lot with Jamie over the last year and a half and probably haven't reaped the rewards in four-day cricket. I had a strike rate of 163 in HRV Cup this year so I've been working on the aggressive side of my game and bringing in more power, and that does help you when you play teams like South Africa."
One searing pull shot during his 54 off 67 balls in New Zealand's one-wicket defeat in Potchefstroom was evidence of that.
Elliott kicked himself for not pushing on to big scores, although his 48 in Kimberley helped Kane Williamson plunder 145 as New Zealand clinched the series.
The ODI and Twenty20 teams to face England are named either today or Friday and Elliott expects he has done enough for at least the ODIs.
"I'd be upset if I wasn't included, and I'd love to play the Twenty20s. There's some exciting things coming up; England home and away and the Champions Trophy which I played last time and had some success [New Zealand made the final in 2009]. Then obviously the 2015 World Cup because I missed the last one."
First up there is a home Plunket Shield match, against Canterbury starting today. Elliott will play only days three and four under the New Zealand Cricket directive stipulating rest periods for players returning from tours. It will require some juggling, with gloveman Luke Ronchi also missing the fourth day when he travels to Whangarei for the New Zealand XI match against England.
Wellington (from): Stephen Murdoch (c), Josh Brodie, Michael Papps, Jesse Ryder, Grant Elliott (days 3-4 only), Luke Woodcock, Luke Ronchi (days 1-2-3 only), Michael Pollard, Harry Boam, Scott Kuggeleijn, Mark Gillespie, Ili Tugaga, Tipene Friday.
Canterbury (from): Peter Fulton (c), George Worker, Shanan Stewart, Dean Brownlie, Tom Latham (days 1-2-3 only), Henry Nicholls, Todd Astle, Ryan McCone, Matt McEwan, Tim Johnston, Ronnie Hira, Brent Findlay, David Fulton.
The Dominion Post