Cricket: Michael Bracewell relishes fight to win back Blackcaps place on return from ruptured Achilles

As he prepares to make his return to cricket following a long injury layoff, Michael Bracewell isn't deterred by the competition around him in the race for places in the Blackcaps.   

Bracewell, 32, has been out of action since June 2023, when a ruptured Achilles tendon saw him ruled out of last year's Cricket World Cup in India.   

At the time, the Blackcaps were already battling with the idea of being without white ball captain Kane Williamson, who himself was all but ruled out of the World Cup after a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament.   

And like Williamson, who was able to defy recovery timelines to make it back for the World Cup, Bracewell has done the same. 

Michael Bracewell.
Michael Bracewell. Photo credit: Getty Images

Initially diagnosed for eight months out of the game, the all-rounder has returned in less than seven, and will turn out for Wellington against Auckland in Thursday's Super Smash encounter.

Just how big of a role Bracewell plays will be seen, but regardless, he's happy to take his recovery one step at a time.   

"It's been a challenging six and a half months," he said. "A lot of rehab, calf raises and things like that.   

"When you have an injury like that, you just enjoy the little moments, like being able to walk again and stuff like that.   

"Today's just another day, being able to get back out there and play the game that I love is awesome, I'm excited to get back out there."   

However, with a Twenty20 World Cup on the horizon in mid-2024, Bracewell is targeting a return to the international scene.   

In the shortest format, Bracewell's record as a bowler alone would be enough to see him walk into any side, averaging a surreal 10.42 with the ball from his 16 games with 21 wickets to his name and best figures of 3/5.   

Throw in his batting, which has seen him score two lower order centuries in ODI cricket, and Bracewell is unquestionably a luxury player for coach Gary Stead and selectors.     

But in his absence, the Blackcaps have seen not one, but two spinning all-rounders come into the side, with the pair of Rachin Ravindra and Glenn Phillips force their way closer to becoming all-format players.  

Bracewell, though, welcomes the competition of having to earn his place in Stead's international plans, after having to wait until his 30s to make his debut for the Blackcaps at the start of 2022. 

"I don't think it's ever 'your place'," he continued. "The guys that came in did an exceptional job. 

Michael Bracewell celebrates his century against India.
Michael Bracewell celebrates his century against India. Photo credit: Photosport

"It's a great challenge to have, you want to be making it on merit and playing your best cricket to play for New Zealand.   

"That'll certainly be the case. I'll have to put some performances on the board to get back there.  

"It's an exciting thing for New Zealand Cricket with the depth we've got in that position."   

Phillips was able to seize his chance in test cricket and won man-of-the-match for his all-round heroics as the Blackcaps fought back to level the series against Bangladesh at the start of December.   

Ravindra, meanwhile, was the star of the World Cup in India, scoring three centuries batting at the top of the order, and earned himself a $350,000 Indian Premier League contract as a result.

For Bracewell, who has had a front-row seat to Ravindra's development as a teammate with Wellington, the successes coming the 24-year-old's way are no surprise.   

"He was always going to get to where he is now. He's an exceptional talent and he trains exceptionally hard.   

"It's great to see him go out and do so well and show the world what he's made of."   

But while others would perhaps resent the missed opportunity of playing at a pinnacle event like a World Cup, Bracewell has everything in perspective.   

In fact, having such an extended time away from cricket has been a blessing in disguise for the young father.    

"You've got to look at the positives," he said. "I've been able to spend six months at home with my family - which has been awesome. 

"[I've been able to] see my little boy grow up, so those are the things you cherish and have to immerse yourself in.   

"You can look at all the things you've missed out on, or places you could have been.   

"But you've got to go back to what's important, and the fortunate things in our lives that we're all blessed to have."