More than 15 months since his last international appearance, an out-of-favour James Neesham is aiming for the allrounder's spot - across formats - in the New Zealand side, as the selectors continue to weigh their options for a long-term pick from a pool that also features Corey Anderson and Colin de Grandhomme.
"I've put my stake in the ground and said I want to play all three forms for New Zealand, not for the next 12 months but for the next 4-5 years," Neesham told stuff.co.nz. "What the New Zealand team is crying out for is an allrounder they can rely on day in, day out, and not someone who's just going to turn up now and then. That's where I want to put my stake in the ground and say through domestic performances, 'here I am, I'm ready to go'."
Neesham, 28, has played 12 Tests, 41 ODIs and 15 T20Is, but none since the ODI against Bangladesh in Cardiff during the 2017 Champions Trophy. A dip in form, particularly with the ball, in the season that followed resulted in him falling out of favour with the selectors.
Neesham was then omitted from NZC's list of 20 contracted players for the 2018-19 period, with selector Gavin Larsen stating he needed to "demand our attention again through domestic performance."
Within a fortnight, Neesham ended a seven-year tenure with Otago and signed with Wellington Firebirds for the 2018-19 season. At the heart of this shift of allegiance was Wellington's coach and former national selector Bruce Edgar. Both Edgar and the Firebirds captain Michael Bracewell are believed to have played a part in giving Neesham the clarity he had been lacking for a while.
His time away from cricket, he said, had been beneficial, and he hoped it will hold him in good stead when the squad for next year's World Cup is picked. "It [World Cup] is certainly my focus, but at a more basic level than that it's about enjoying the game again, going out and having fun, which I probably haven't done since about 2014, "he said. "That was the main goal of my off-season, to get away from the game and enjoy it again at its most basic level. I got a bit too caught up in trying to be perfect and trying to contribute every game and that was probably detrimental.
"I had a moment last season with two-three contracts in front of me that would have required me to cut down what I was willing to play for New Zealand. I looked at the options and decided I wasn't going to be able to look back on my career at 50 if I'd taken the easy option that early.
A slew of injuries, including a stress fracture in 2015, a rib injury and back spasm in the following two years, thwarted his attempts at maintaining form, but the work over the recent weeks, he said, had strengthened him both physically and mentally.
"Looking at the fitness and strength results, I'm in one of the best spaces I've been in," he said. "That's allowed me to bowl more in the nets and hopefully get me to a space where my bowling is a point of difference over those other guys.
"After 2015 and having a stress fracture, it took me a couple of seasons to really get fully back into bowling again. Physically I was back to 100% but mentally it takes a while for you to trust your body again and know that bowling 25 overs isn't going to mean you can't walk for a week."