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New Zealand allrounder James Neesham has decided to move on from Wellington Firebirds after a four-year career in an amicable mutual decision. The 31-year-old turned out for Otago for seven years before joining Wellington in the 2018-19 season, and has now said he will be seeking an opportunity with Auckland.
"Having done seven years at Otago and now four years at Wellington, it's now come to the point where I am sort of looking for a bit more settled summer at home, I guess and returning to Auckland is what makes the sense for that," Neesham said. "We've had a lot of conversations with Wellington over the last three or four weeks, going around making it work and in the end it sort of became apparent to all of us that it was a bit too hard.
"I have had discussions with the (Auckland) Aces as well around being involved with their squad in a sort of training capacity. The season is still a long, long way off so what that means a playing aspect is little bit unclear but we will be having those discussions moving forward with respect to trying to represent New Zealand as much as I can with my base in Auckland."
Neesham was left out of the New Zealand central contract list for the 2022-23 season, and currently does not have a domestic contract as well for the upcoming season.
However, the allrounder reaffirmed his commitment to New Zealand cricket stating that playing white-ball cricket formats for the country remains his "main priority".
"My main priority is still playing for New Zealand," Neesham said. "Obviously there have been a couple of people in the past that have slipped off the radar after making a decision like this. I just wanted to be very clear with New Zealand cricket with my communication as well around with that being my priority."
"[I am] looking forward to the T20 World Cup and then the ODI World Cup as well, next year. The nature of the cricket I play at the moment, there are going to be no shortage of opportunities to prove that I am playing well, whether it be in New Zealand or overseas. I have made it very clear to NZC that my goal is to represent New Zealand going forward in the white-ball cricket formats."
Neesham, having contemplated giving up the game altogether a few years ago, reignited his career after signing up with Wellington for the 2018-19 season. He played a key role in taking the side to their first Ford Trophy win that season, scoring 503 runs in 12 matches at an average of 62.87 and taking 13 wickets.
"I've absolutely loved playing for Wellington over the last four years," Neesham said. "I'm so proud to have been part of this team and am thankful to the group for welcoming me and seeing the vision we've wanted to create.
"We've had some serious fun and experienced some serious success, and I know that the most successful era of Wellington cricket isn't over yet, so I wish the team all the best for the future."
Neesham was instrumental in guiding Wellington to four domestic titles across three competitions - Ford Trophy in 2018-19, Plunket Shield in 2019, and back-to-back Super Smash titles in 2019-20 and 2020-21 seasons. Alongside, he also revived his international career, getting a New Zealand contract and playing vital roles in the 2019 ODI World Cup, and the 2021 T20 World Cup. New Zealand made it to the final of both tournaments.
Neesham is currently with Northamptonshire in the T20 Vitality Blast. He was also part of the Rajasthan Royals side that reached the final of IPL 2022. More recently, Neesham has put himself forward for the wildcard draft at the Hundred competition.
"Jimmy has been an integral part of the Wellington Firebirds side that has experienced much success over the last four seasons," Cricket Wellington CEO Cam Mitchell said.
"We've been so pleased to see Jimmy rediscover his love for the game since coming to Wellington and he has gone on to show that he is one of the most talented allrounders in the game of cricket."