New Zealand news February 5, 2014

West Indies tour is Vettori's fitness deadline

ESPNcricinfo staff

Daniel Vettori's fitness when the team is selected for the West Indies tour will be critical for him to keep alive his hopes of playing in another World Cup. Former New Zealand captain and their most successful spinner, Vettori, has been battling injuries recently, and last played for New Zealand in June 2013. He met captain Brendon McCullum and coach Mike Hesson on Tuesday to discuss his future, and was told he would have to prove his fitness around the West Indies tour, which begins this May. New Zealand will co-host the World Cup at the start of the next year.

Nathan McCullum has proved to be an able replacement in the ODI side even as Vettori tried to stage a comeback through the Big Bash League. He had to struggle with a back injury, though, which negated his claim made through an impressive economy rate of 6.25 in seven matches. Vettori hasn't bowled a ball since, nor is he expected to anytime soon. He has two to three months to get back to fitness. It has been made clear to him that he won't be considered for the World Twenty20 in March.

"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 was quoted as saying by Fairfax NZ News.

New Zealand Herald quoted Vettori as saying: "Mike and Brendon made it clear that if I play for New Zealand again I've got to deliver in all three facets of the game, which is completely fair. I can't just bowl 24 balls, and then expect to be hidden in the outfield [during the World T20].

"I've also got to consider the deal I've signed to coach RCB [Royal Challengers Bangalore in the IPL], which could require me to be there three weeks early. That might create a difficult situation regarding the World Cup."

Hesson said that fitness in non-negotiable. "There's plenty of water to pass under the bridge," Hesson said, "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. 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 tour]. Hopefully he can play some cricket before the end of the season."

While Nathan McCullum might have emerged as a good replacement in limited-overs cricket, New Zealand are struggling to find a Test substitute. Before the start of the home international summer, New Zealand were keen to get Vettori back. They delayed naming of the Test squad against West Indies so that they could see how Vettori went in his Plunket Shield match against Central Districts. It was only his second first-class match in 16 months, and New Zealand decided to go ahead without him. Vettori played two more first-class matches before being injured again during the Big Bash League.

"It was a little bit worse than the past," Vettori said of the injury. "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."