New Zealand allrounder hopes to recover in time after missing home season due to ankle injury
All members of New Zealand’s Test squad still currently at home have received their first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine ahead of the tour of England, and allrounder Colin de Grandhomme is confident he will be fit for the trip as he recovers from the ankle surgery he underwent towards the end of the summer.
The squad has been granted early access to the vaccine programme under “reasons of national significance” which will also cover New Zealand’s Tokyo Olympics-bound athletes. The four New Zealand Test players at the IPL – Kane Williamson, Mitchell Santner, Trent Boult and Kyle Jamieson – and also Will Young, who is with Durham, left before the process started.
Meanwhile, de Grandhomme has now returned to training ahead of the pre-tour camps that will take place next month before the squad departs for England in mid-May. They play two Tests against the hosts before the World Test Championship final against India in late June.
He did not feature at all for New Zealand during the season and though he played domestically primarily as a batter, it was decided that surgery was the best course for de Grandhomme.
“Since I’ve had the surgery the ankle has felt real good and it seems to keep getting better and it feels normal again for a change,” he said. “Looks like I’m tracking well at the moment and should be ready to go for ball one if I’m needed.”
de Grandhomme has an impressive record in Tests – averaging 37.03 with the bat and 31.63 with the ball in 24 matches – although New Zealand were able to cover his absence strongly against West Indies and Pakistan through a combination of Daryl Mitchell and Mitchell Santner depending on conditions.
Mitchell scored a maiden Test century against Pakistan in Christchurch, and New Zealand will also need to consider if they want a spin-bowling option in their playing XI, so it may not be a certainty that de Grandhomme would return even if available, although his bowling is probably more of a threat than Mitchell’s at Test level.
Neil Wagner was training alongside de Grandhomme in Mount Maunganui on Tuesday ahead of the official camps where they can make use of a marquee to continuing training on grass with his focus on getting used to the Duke balls used in England.
“It’s got little bit different characteristics to what a Kookaburra does so just trying to get used to it and adapting to the different things we’ll come across in England,” Wagner said. “[It’s about] not getting too far ahead of yourself with a Duke ball that tends to swing around a little bit and try too hard.
“Having played there in the past, and a number of us now, it’s good that we have a wealth of experience and knowledge in our group to draw back on. [But] every time you go back there’s new things to learn, so to be able to put that into place for what is arguably the most important time of our careers we are really excited about.”
Wagner was the last of the home-based players to have his first Covid-19 jab. “We’re really grateful for everything the government has done to this point, firstly in helping us host a safe and successful home summer of international cricket, and now assisting us to access the vaccines in time to tour,” he said.
New Zealand may need to patch up their Test side against England depending on the availability of players from the IPL especially after the announcement that India is now a ‘red-list’ country which will likely mean those flying in from the IPL will need extended quarantine.
Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo