Jimmy Neesham
source: Newshub (New Zealand website)

“He hits it a long mile, it travels down a country mile. In the end, the shot is admired, the impact felt, but just for a while, only for a while.”

The game goes on, gently as ever; Jimmy Neesham, who seems fresh off the blocks, has actually been here for a while.

For someone who debuted, unless you very much forgot, back in 2013, it’s a bit surprising that Jimmy Neesham hasn’t even played 100 one dayers for the BlackCaps.

He’s here, very much in the World Cup squad, as he was back in 2019, and isn’t done just yet.

At 33, where he’s neither a spring chicken nor the oldest man in the world, the Jimmy Neesham allure only gets stronger.

He’s got power in those shoulders, the desire to perform for one of the greatest unwavering enigmas of our time called New Zealand, and also patchy form to his name considering his batting average in last two previous years read 17 and 22, respectively (2021 and 2022).

Rather notably, during this time, the Auckland-born picked 8 wickets from as many games, averaging 181 with the ball in one dayers in 2022.

And here he is, the only pure all rounder, if that’s the word, that the BlackCaps have travelled to India with, there being no Colin deGrandhomme around and with other experienced and redoubtable heroes of their game- Guptill and Taylor belonging to the past, not to the present time.

The task on Jimmy Neesham could not be possibly harder, a truth we conveniently duck from. He must perform with both bat and ball and do so whenever the chance arises; which in his case with the bat doesn’t come until nearly half the side is dismissed.

Whether a batting surface or one that assists seamers, Neesham plays the support part and has done so rather handily for the BlackCaps, taking 69 one day wickets from 74 games, which includes 4 four-wicket hauls.

Neesham, you’d rather think, has more bowling credentials to his name that he has with then bat. His economy of 6 is absolutely fine and acceptable at a time where big hitting has become a dominant part of the game. Moreover, for someone who’s picked 69 wickets bowling just 400 overs, as on date, to be precise, can’t be doubted for his skill.

He’d need in the game against Bangladesh, that goes live shortly, the kind of performance he sparkled with at the Basin Reserve in 2021; the imposing, and ultimately, winning spell of 5 for 27.

After Conway and Mitchell’s sparkling centuries, it was Neesham who played the wrecker-in-chief, removing the middle and the lower middle order on his own.

But as an all rounder, he’d maybe want to up his game with the bat as well and perhaps be responsible for more concerted efforts than throwing the wood all around as he does.

There again, it’s not really down to Neesham in the absolute sense of the word as his batting position often fluctuates given the task at hand for the Kiwis on a particular day.

On the whole, however, despite valiant contributions, such as key knock in the 2019 World Cup finals and a largely underrated (also unbeaten) 71 against South Africa at the Hagley Oval that came against the likes of Tahir, Pretorius, and Morris, Neesham’s CV misses that big rather humungous knock.

His is the sort of a career that’s had hits, but not a blockbuster. Don’t you think?

With 74 ODI’s to his name, from which he’s still some 63 shy of touching 1,500 runs, Jimmy Neesham doesn’t have soaring numbers to his name. What he does have, however, is the experience he brings to the table and having never cribbed about the changing vagaries of the Kiwi sport within which he’s to contribute.

But having said so, he sure knows how to perform under immense pressure, and if you can remember, he was the one who was sent in during the World Cup final super over. Yes, that very Lord’s final where England lorded over New Zealand, perhaps still disconcertingly so for tens of thousands of fans.

Despite Jimmy Neesham scoring a mere 19 off 25 in the actual innings, the captain and management believed in him as he was sent along with Martin Guptill to face the mighty Jofra Archer in the Super Over. He did not disappoint anyone and smashed 13 runs off five deliveries. 

And not anyone can smash Jofra Archer like this. But he did.  

He was indeed a key player for New Zealand’s run to the final of the 2019 World Cup, and so do his stats suggest. He smashed 232 runs in just eight innings, including the highest score of 97 not out against the Pakistan team. When it comes to bowling, he also wickets 14 wickets, including a five-wicket haul against Afghanistan.  

He must demonstrate that he is still not done if he wants to represent the Kiwis in the T20 World Cup 2024, which is not so far away.  

The management of the New Zealand team understands the importance of having a seam bowling all-rounder, which is why he is eventually brought into the team for the major ICC tournaments.  

Neesham plays T20 cricket all over the world; forget not that he attracted the highest bid for the inaugural SAT20 league in 2022.

a Due to his expertise, he will undoubtedly be included in the playing eleven as we head to the latter stage of the tournament. The team may need him in the later stages of the competition given his prowess in high-pressure situations. Additionally, whenever he gets this chance, he needs to step up and take responsibility and show some of his favourite slogs over the mid-wicket region.

That he can do so, is not subject to doubt at all.

But will that happen or how soon might that happen rests entirely on the chances Jimmy Neesham gets, given there’s, more or less, an established pool of players in Glenn Phillips, Mark Chapman, Michael Bracewell and not to forger, a certain Kyle Jamieson.

Time may not be running out that fast for Neesham, but given he’s part of a team whose fabric constantly changes to give fresh faces a chance, for ability to take shape on the field, Neesham may not be in easiest of zones out there.

– with contributions from Saksham Chugh


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