Jimmy Neesham admits he came close to quitting cricket

The New Zealand all-rounder feels “surreal” to have been picked for the Cricket World Cup 2019.

Jimmy Neesham, the New Zealand all-rounder, has said he feels “surreal” to have been picked for the Cricket World Cup 2019.

Neesham has revealed he was close to retiring 18 months ago due to poor form and injury, needing professional counselling to rediscover his love for cricket. “It came as close as it could get. I actually called Heath Mills (New Zealand Players Association CEO) 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 told 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.

‘Downward spiral’

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.

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“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.

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“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.