James Neesham's last Test match, in Brisbane last November, wasn't the happiest of experiences. Having just come back into the New Zealand side after being deemed to have recovered fully from a stress fracture, he continued experiencing discomfort in his back while bowling, and was ruled out of the remainder of the series. Now, close to a year later, Neesham is back in the Test squad, and says he is back to full fitness, after a summer spent in England, playing limited-overs cricket for Derbyshire.
"The main result for me [from the Derbyshire stint] was I got through the whole season uninjured and basically had no issues with the back at all," Neesham said, after New Zealand's squad arrived in India. "So I suppose the aim now is to get the loading up again and make them good enough for Test cricket."
Neesham said he had worked specifically, while in England, on getting back to cricket-fitness.
"It was more tweaking little things," he said. "We did a lot of work on the rehab prior to the Australian series last year, and were pretty comprehensive on that side of things, but I think over in Derby it was more about, I suppose, finding what works and what doesn't, and changing up especially the gym programme a little bit - basically making cricket the number-one priority as opposed to regaining the strength base and fitness base, which it was before Australia."
Since the start of his international career, Neesham felt his game, particularly his batting, had become less carefree, and ahead of the Tests against India, he hoped to return to playing his natural game.
"I'm basically looking to go back to how I played when I first came in to international cricket," he said. "I think I was a bit more carefree and a bit more, I suppose, laissez faire, especially with batting, and then once you start feeling the pressure of international cricket and wanting results and wanting runs, it can curb your game a little bit, which I think is one of the traps I fell into.
"So I'm just looking to go back to playing my natural game. It's a bit of a cliché, but hopefully runs and wickets will flow from there."
Though he has visited India previously, Neesham is touring the country with the Test side for the first time. He hoped he could feed off some of the more experienced members of the squad such as Ross Taylor and Kane Williamson.
"I've had an A tour, Champions League, and then IPL, so I've had three tours over here now, and you learn something new every time you come over," he said. "And there are obviously guys in the team that have come over here a lot more times than I have, so I've been looking to glean some knowledge off guys like Ross and Kane, especially about playing spin and playing their spinners in particular, but I think, as I said before, if you play your natural game and have some clear plans about how you're going to go about scoring runs, then that should hold you in good stead."