Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Bond's test comeback could be postponed

Shane Bond has so far avoided New Zealand Cricket's latest injury crisis but the premier fast bowler's anticipated comeback to test cricket could still be postponed.

Bond's return to international duty after self-imposed exile in the Indian Cricket League has progressed without a hitch since he joined the limited overs side in Sri Lanka in September.

The 34-year old emerged unscathed from the three ODIs and two Twenty20 internationals before playing a full part in New Zealand's Champions Trophy campaign in South Africa.

Bond is expected to play the 18th test of an injury-ravaged career in the home series against Pakistan next month, though it is doubtful whether he will front in the opening test in Dunedin.

While Bond's resurrection has been encouraging he is still desperately light on four-day cricket, let alone the rigours of a five-day test.

He played his last test at Johannesburg in November 2007, though of more concern is the fact his last first class match was for Durham against Hampshire in June 2008.

Bond played only limited overs cricket for Canterbury last season and once the ODI squad return from a five-match tour against Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates he would only be able to slot in one provincial four-day game before the first test starts at University Oval on November 24.

Canterbury play Otago in Dunedin from November 17, only two days after New Zealand arrive back from Dubai meaning Bond would have a short turnaround before reacclimatising to the demands of four-day cricket.

If he skips the first test Bond would be able to play for Canterbury against Auckland from November 24, a potentially valuable tune-up before the second test in Wellington from December 3.

New Zealand captain Daniel Vettori, now also a selector, was today guarded on whether Bond would be required in Dunedin.

"It's a difficult one, it's going to be tough. Obviously that's what we want to happen but Shane hasn't played four-day cricket for a long, long time.

"We don't want to force him into it and realise we could set him back," Vettori said.

"He's going to need some four-day cricket and as soon as he gets that I think he's going to be able to put his hand up for selection.

"He's got the opportunity to play in a four-day game but that's probably a day after stepping off the plane after being in Dubai.

"Whether that's the best thing to do or not, Shane is the best judge of that."

Vettori said knowing "how belligerent" Bond could be he imagined the right armer would want to prove himself as soon as possible.

"If he plays in that first Canterbury game and goes well the selectors will definitely look at him. I'd be guided by what he says because he's such a valuable asset that if we don't utilise him well, we could get ourselves in trouble."

Vettori was resigned to being without Jesse Ryder (groin) for the three-test series although there was a slight chance the middle order batsman and change bowler might be available for the final match in Napier.

Meanwhile, Vettori was expecting a tough challenge from Pakistan despite ructions over the future of captain Younis Khan and the banning of fast bowler Mohammad Asif from the UAE given he was deported last year after being found in possession of a quantity of opium.

Younis relinquished the captaincy after allegations the team deliberately under-performed against New Zealand and Australia at the Champions Trophy - allegations he denied.

He withdrew his resignation on Monday.

An Indian newspaper incorrectly alleged Younis was under investigation by the International Cricket Council after he dropped a straight forward catch of New Zealand's Grant Elliott during their semifinal.

New Zealand's 15-man squad leave on Monday; the first ODI is in Abu Dhabi on November 3.

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