New Zealand all-rounder Jimmy Neesham says being picked for the upcoming World Cup feels “surreal” as he was on the verge of retiring 18 months back due to form and injury, needing professional counselling to rediscover his love for cricket.
The 28-year-old, who has played 12 Tests, 49 ODIs and 15 T20 Internationals for New Zealand, was named in the 15-man squad that the Black Caps recently announced for the ODI showpiece starting May 30 in the United Kingdom.
He was ignored for the 2015 edition of the mega-event which was held in Australia and New Zealand. Neesham was also axed following the 2017 Champions Trophy before making a comeback earlier this year.
Battling inconsistent form and injuries, Neesham said he called New Zealand Players Association CEO Heath Mills to express his desire to quit.
“It came as close as it could get. I actually called Heath Mills and told him I was going to retire so I owe a lot to him to convince me to take a little break and come back three or four weeks later,” Neesham was quoted as saying by ‘ESPNCricinfo’.
“From there, being able to make progress steadily, come back with Wellington and make this team it’s all been a pretty surreal ride,” he added.
Describing the days leading up to that call, Neesham said it was a “downward spiral” which was a result of putting himself under too much pressure.
“Waking up in the morning, opening the shades and hoping it was raining is not the ideal way to start a day of cricket and I’d basically got to the point where I needed to have a full overhaul in the way I was approaching the game,” he said.
“When I got dropped at the start of last season I put a lot of pressure on myself to succeed and wanted to dominate domestic cricket…Luckily I took the advance, took a short break rather than a long break, and since then it’s been on the up and up,” he recalled.
Neesham said he was told to put down his bat for a while by Mills and he took the advice. He came back for domestic side Otago towards the end of the 2017-18 season
In a local one-day tournament, Neesham rediscovered his form scoring 503 runs at an average of 62.87 with a strike rate of 110.79. The performance fetched him a place for the home series against Sri Lanka.
“I saw a psychologist who was really helpful, starting at the bottom and working up to where all these frustrations were coming from,” he said.
“I’m not much of communicator at the best of time, just being able to talk through some of the struggles I was having off the field – it only took four or five sessions to really see some progress,” he added.
Neesham said the key to his comeback was to take the focus away from results.
“I’d given it a good crack trying to get enjoyment from succeeding but once I paid less attention to the runs and wickets, less attention to hitting balls for two hours the day before a game,…It couldn’t have gone better, to be honest,” he said.