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To get the honour of leading New Zealand is a huge privilege, says Michael Bracewell ahead of T20Is v Pakistan

15 Apr, 2024 19:15 IST|Sakshi Post

New Delhi, April 15 (IANS) With less than two months for the Men’s T20 World Cup to begin in the West Indies and the USA from June 1-29, New Zealand’s upcoming tour of five T20Is in Pakistan will play an important part in the visitors’ finalising their squad for the mega event, where their best result has been runners-up finish in 2021 edition.

With most first-choice players plying their trade in the ongoing Indian Premier League (IPL) 2024, it allows off-spin all-rounder Michael Bracewell to captain a youthful New Zealand mixed with experienced campaigners when they face Pakistan in a five-match T20I series starting on April 18 in Rawalpindi.

For Bracewell, it has been a long road to returning to international cricket after his last appearance for New Zealand came in March 2023. In June, while batting for Worcestershire in a T20 Blast match against Yorkshire, Bracewell ruptured his right Achilles and underwent surgery. With an estimated recovery period of six to eight months, he was ruled out of playing for New Zealand in the Men’s ODI World Cup in India.

After the slow grind of rehabilitation, Bracewell returned to action in January 2024, before breaking his finger while playing for Wellington, further delaying his international selection. Now on the threshold of international return, Bracewell speaks exclusively to IANS, in a chat facilitated by Sony Sports Network, on the T20I series against Pakistan, his recovery and rehab journey, banking on past leadership experiences and more.

Q. What are the emotions right now about you being on the verge of returning to playing international cricket, and that too as New Zealand captain?

A. First of all, I'm very excited to be named in the squad. It's been a long layoff from playing international cricket, but I'm very excited to get back out on the field. To be able to play again and then to captain the country is something that I've dreamed about as a little boy. So, to be able to get the honour of leading the Black Caps is a huge privilege and it’s something that I'm really very excited about.

Q. It has been a long journey for you to be back from two injuries. What did those first steps towards beginning the recovery look like, especially after the Achilles surgery was done?

A. Firstly, there was a period when I wasn't able to walk at all. I completely ruptured my Achilles. So, they stitched it back together and you have to give that time to heal. Then I was in a moon-boat for a couple of months and really restricting the movement of the Achilles there.

Then after that, it was a whole lot of rehab and things related to it. So, a lot of calf raises happened and then it was a very gradual process of learning to walk again and then being able to run and then slowly integrating back into the cricket-specific side of things as well. So, it was just over a six-month process of returning to domestic cricket. Then unfortunately after about six games, I ended up quite badly breaking my finger. So, then that was another stint on the sidelines while that recovered as well.

Q. Can you describe the steps of your recovery timeline for the public to understand what you went through?

A. As a cricketer and sportsman, there were little milestones that I wanted to tick off each week. I had a great program put in place by the medical staff at New Zealand Cricket that allowed me to just achieve those small, little milestones. So that first one was being able to walk again and weight bear on the affected leg. Then it was able to run on the anti-gravity machine, which is basically like a fancy treadmill. So with each of those little steps, it became a big step forward in recovery. It wasn't as though I went from not being able to do anything to suddenly being able to do everything. So that little bit of gain was made in each week and then slowly you build up.

A couple of months pass by and suddenly you're able to run again, which is very exciting. So those little milestones along the way made it a little bit easier. Watching on the sidelines is never fun, so you've always got that big carrot at the end of being back playing. So that was always the motivating factor in it all being able to get back out there and do what I love.

Q. Who were the key people with you in these tough days of recovery and rehab?

A. I have a huge support network in New Zealand. I've got my wife Lauren and my little boy Lennox, who I spent a lot more time with over the last seven or eight months, instead of being away playing cricket all the time. So, first of all, I am hugely grateful for that support. At times, you've got to look for the silver linings. So, getting to see him grow up and spend a lot more time with him has been amazing. Lauren has been amazing and super supportive too. She made sure that I was able to concentrate on just getting right back on the field.

Then the New Zealand cricket and Wellington cricket medical team, all of their medical staff, especially the S&C person Matt Long in Wellington, were hugely integral in helping me achieve the recovery goals in six months.

Q. What is the biggest takeaway that you’ve learned from this journey, something which will always stay with you?

A. You never really want to go through something as gruelling and painful big injury like that. But I guess the learning that I took from it is if you break it down into small little chunks and just keep trying to find a way to go forward, then you can get your way through the toughest of times. I look back proudly now to those times when you sort of doubt whether you can come back and play again. To look back now and that's just a distant memory of the rehab that I was having to go through is pretty cool.

Knowing that you can come through something like that and be on the other side of it, I would say, being able to break little things down and just keep trying to find a way forward is something that I'll take with me through the rest of my cricketing journey.

Q. Coming back to the T20I series against Pakistan, what have been the key learnings from your time of captaining Wellington over the years which will help you in going about captaining the New Zealand team?

A. As a captain, I just want to instill confidence in all of my players to just go out there and perform the role. Whether that's domestically or internationally, it's the same principle. You want players going out and believing in themselves and having the confidence to take the game on, particularly in T20 cricket, where it can be quite fickle - success and failure, there's a fine line between the both of them. It's also about having the vision of Kane (Williamson) and how he leads the Black Caps regularly. I also don't want to make it too different from the way that he likes to lead things because it's been very successful, and it will continue to be successful for the Black Caps with him at the helm. So, don't really want to rock the boat too much and just try to keep things going as he's sort of done that throughout his tenure.

Q. With the T20 World Cup around the corner, how much importance does this T20I series against Pakistan hold for you and for probably other Blackcaps players contesting for berths in the main 15-member squads?

A. For me, in particular, I haven't played international cricket in a long time. I imagine it'll be very important for me to put my best foot forward. I guess that's the same for everyone. Every time you play for New Zealand, you want to play to your potential and put your best foot forward and perform for the team. Ultimately that puts you in a good space to be selected for these things that are potentially around the corner (like the Men’s T20 World Cup). So, I'm sure everyone will be in the same boat. It's a great opportunity to get to play for New Zealand first and foremost.

For me, coming off a long injury layoff, you don't want to put too much pressure on yourself to perform. But you also know that it's a high-performance environment and performances in the series are what will get you in going where you need to go.

Q. A word on two exciting young New Zealand cricketers - Will O'Rourke and Tim Robinson – who are part of this T20I series against Pakistan?

A. Both of them are immensely talented players, quite young and are a real nod to the future of New Zealand cricket. Tim Robison is a super powerful player and had a great campaign here in the Super Smash. He unfortunately got injured for a couple of games so didn't manage to play the whole round, but he was one of the leading run scorers through six games. He had an amazing campaign and scored a brilliant 100 at the Basin Reserve which has massive boundaries and he's clearing them with ease. He's a powerful player and I'm sure he’s someone that will have a long and great career in the national colours.

Will O'Rourke made his international debut earlier in the season and got a really good taste of it. He's just taken everything in his stride and done really well with all the opportunities that he's got. So, this is just another step of progression in his career by playing T20 cricket and he's got a great skill set.

He's tall, fast and hits lovely areas with his deliveries. So, I'm sure he'll be one to watch out for as well. He's not that pleasant to face, so it'll be nice to be on the other side of it and see the opposition batters jump around a little bit when facing him in the series.

Sony Sports Network has acquired the exclusive broadcast rights of New Zealand Cricket for seven years.

Disclaimer: This story has not been edited by the Sakshi Post team and is auto-generated from syndicated feed.

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