The relief in Corey Anderson’s voice was unmistakable as he exclaimed: ‘It’s exciting to be back… with the boys and in India’.
Anderson had just completed his first net session with the New Zealand team in more than six months. By the end of the session, he’d even pushed himself into hurling down a couple of short deliveries at the batsmen with no discernible discomfort. A welcome relief.
A relapse of the stress injury to his back, first sustained on the tour of England last year, has seen the all-rounder miss nearly 12 months of the international circuit. His last international assignment was the World T20 in India.
Understandably disappointed at the misfortune, Anderson chose to redirect his efforts on coming back strongly in the five-match series against India, starting with Sunday’s clash at the Himachal Pradesh State Cricket Association Stadium in Dharamsala
“It’s been reasonably tough second time around,” Anderson said on Friday (October 14). “It’s one of those things… you have a decent chunk out [with injury] and you don’t really want to sit out again.
“But I had to do it. It’s part of the game, you have injuries. Doing that I guess gives you time to reflect on things and see where you can get better and those kind of thing. I’ve been working to get my fitness and strength up and not have a date in mind. It’s basically when I’m ready, I’m ready kind of thing.
When Anderson first turned up for the Sri Lanka series in late 2015 after his initial setback, he’d spoken of his desire to continue as an all-rounder. However, two injuries in succession have meant that the New Zealand team management are now unwilling to press his bowling services into action just as yet.
It’s a decision that Gavin Larsen, the national selector, and the team’s directors arrived at after due deliberation, mindful of the packed season of cricket ahead of the team which could see them play as many as 24 ODIs in the build up to the Champions Trophy in June 2017.
“At the moment I am just batting. I will work on my bowling in the background,” Anderson said. “I think that’s one of those things… [where] there is no time frame. More just letting it, I guess, take its time and when it’s ready it’s ready. It is pointless pushing myself with such a big summer in front of us. I know it’s India, I’d love to be doing everything. I don’t know if there is enough time on this tour potentially, but it’s just one of those things that I am focusing on my batting. That will be my main job.”
Anderson’s lengthy absence, particularly from the shorter formats, has opened up avenues for other players. Mitchell Santner has now established himself as the team’s first-choice all-rounder. The returning James Neesham, who has also been riddled with his own share of back troubles, will now push to take up a role he’d earlier lost to Anderson. The burly batsman, though, is not too perturbed by having his overall effect in the game reduced to being just the middle-order batting enforcer.
“Look, I think it still works, you know. You still need that sort of a middle-order batsman who can try and control the middle of the innings and wait for the so-called party in the end. We have got a lot of guys in the team who can do a lot of things, which is great – some of the guys in the top order can also bowl. I think it just helps with Kane [Williamson] having to mix up bowlers and change them up. The dynamic is what it is.”
“It is one of those things, I think. In the middle order you have got to be able to adapt. If you lose early wickets, you are going to be able to try and take your team deep. If you get in with not many overs left, then you are going to have to start going from ball one. It’s an adaptable position and I have obviously been preparing for that.”
Anderson, who watched from the sidelines as his team crumbled to a 3-0 defeat in the preceding Test series, believed a return to the ODI format, one in which New Zealand have found recent success in, was reason enough to be optimistic.
He was also heartened by the prospect of returning to action at the Dharamsala stadium, the venue of New Zealand’s big win over Australia at the World T20.
“We are just excited to be back in what is a reasonably familiar place after the T20 World Cup. It’s quiet like New Zealand conditions with the weather. All the guys were putting on a few jerseys this morning and things like that. I know the Test boys are obviously enjoying that after some hot days in the part. It’s a nice way to start.
“This is a completely new series and format. We have been a pretty successful one-day side in the last couple of years. I guess we are going to just try and keep that going. Every game is important in the series and we want to make sure we hit the ground running and put up a good fight. There’s a couple of new faces in the team obviously so trying to hit the straps again. We have pretty good memory of beating Australia here so if we do something similar day after, it’ll be great.”