Encouraging signs for Cairns, Vettori and Nash
Signs are that New Zealand's three main cricket crocks of the just-completed summer, Daniel Vettori, Chris Cairns and Dion Nash, are well down the comeback trail for next season's competitive year.
With a one-day series in Sri Lanka, a tour to Pakistan, a tour to Australia, successive home series against Bangladesh and England and an end of season tour to the West Indies, the fitness of all players is being given a real work out in the off season.
Fitness assessments have been completed on all players who played international cricket last summer and while there were some notable injury and illness problems during the year, it is felt the base fitness of those players tested was better than at the same time last year.
The fact that no winter tour was held last year, and no tour this year, provided the perfect chance to do some basic fitness assessments while also tailoring individual programmes for the workloads that lie ahead.
New Zealand Cricket's medical liaison officer Gilbert Enoka said today the medical panel was pleased with the base level of fitness, especially of those who survived major injuries and who played for most of the season.
"Those who worked soundly last winter on the programme have come through very well," he said.
"This is the second year we have had web site monitors for the players and most of the players have presented themselves in advance of the positions they were in at the same time last year," he said.
Individual programmes will be given to all players after they have enjoyed specific rest periods based on their workloads over the summer.
Of the three top players, Vettori, Cairns and Nash, it was Nash who remained of most concern.
But Enoka said Nash was, "keen, eager and enthusiastic to put in the work and give it a shot. He's got work to do but he presented himself well.
"It is 18 months since he bowled for a sustained period in international play and if he is to come back it will be in a dual management situation, where he tells us how he is feeling and we assess that with him.
"He's in the same position he was before going to Zimbabwe last year but will have a much more graduated build-up," he said.
Nash had a fantastic attitude to his situation and Enoka said he had obviously decided it was worth putting himself through the mill again and that Nash realised this would probably be the last station before the desert.
"Daniel Vettori is shaping up well. We have given him a rest, but he will be resuming his bowling load soon and we will give him two or three ports of call in his return," he said.
This would mean he would be assessed at various times during the winter at the High Performance Centre (HPC) to see how he copes with his bowling load.
Enoka thought a return to the CLEAR Black Caps for Sri Lanka was definitely on the cards for Vettori.
"But his return will be handled in a much more structured way."
Cairns was shaping up very well.
"He walked into the HPC unaided and without a limp and that was great. He is also on a graduated programme which will be conservatively managed.
"He is progressing well," he said.