Frustrated Oram on track for World Twenty20
Jacob Oram's catalogue of serious injuries is wearing him down but the lure of the World Twenty20 has motivated another comeback. A torn patella tendon in the first ODI against Australia last month ruled him out of the IPL, where his price tag was US$675,000, and continued a desperate battle with his body.
Oram, speaking at New Zealand's training camp in Australia, said he is "good to go" for the Twenty20 tournament, which is a relief to himself and the side. In form Oram is one of the game's most brutal hitters and a useful medium pacer, but he has been hampered by injuries - back, calf and Achilles problems occurred before the latest setback - throughout his career.
"The knee is alright, at the moment there are no problems," Oram told Cricinfo. "It's nearly six weeks now since I was hurt, but it could have been a lot worse. It could have been four to six months instead of four to six weeks. It's still been hellishly frustrating, especially missing the Australian series, which is the big one."
There was also the financial pain of losing his huge IPL fee, but throughout his rehabilitation he remained focussed on the event in the Caribbean. New Zealand open the tournament when they face Sri Lanka in Guyana on April 30 and back up against Zimbabwe on May 4.
"The carrot for me was the World Twenty20, which is still a massive event, so I pinned my hopes to that," he said. "I've had to start looking at the big picture. Three or four years ago I used to rush back and it doubled or tripled the time out. This time it hasn't been like a winter break and I'm looking forward to more."
During the lay-off he was at home with his wife and six-month old son and the 31-year-old knows his life is changing. He has already retired from Tests after 33 games to prolong his limited-overs career, which includes 139 ODIs and 23 Twenty20s.
With each new fitness problem Oram finds it harder to keep going. "Now it is. Maybe the first four or five lengthy injuries - going home from a tour or missing a series - didn't worry me," he said. "I was young and I just got back. Now it's eroded the energy of my psyche. It weighs on my shoulders."
Oram, whose knee becomes "a bit stiff" after bowling, is not the only one in the New Zealand squad who is suffering. Kyle Mills (knee and shoulder), Jesse Ryder (stomach), Ian Butler (groin) and Aaron Redmond (groin) are also trying to eliminate doubts over their bodies in Brisbane this week. The training was restricted on Wednesday when they were forced into an indoor cricket centre after being hit by the sort of wet weather they knew they would get at home.
Oram said having so many players coming back was not a problem. "New Zealand teams are used to it, a wealth of injuries," he said. "Kyle and Jesse are very important to the team so it's more about being excited to have them here than worried about them."
Having their core of star players firing is the key for New Zealand, who made the semi-finals in South Africa in 2007 and the second round in England last year. "If we can get everyone fit then we're a real chance to go all the way," Oram said. "The 40-over game helps us. For the five to 10 years that I've been playing, we're always better and more comfortable with the shorter forms. If things go well it could play into our hands, but then Twenty20 is so fickle."
Peter English is the Australasia editor of Cricinfo