Andre Adams and Michael Bates remain two of New Zealand cricket's forgotten men, despite returning to prominence to help Auckland win the Twenty20 HRV Cup.

All-rounder Adams last played for the Black Caps four years ago and has since earned his living overseas at English county Nottinghamshire, in India's now defunct ICL for the Kolkata Tigers and in the Sydney club competition with Sutherland.

Left-arm pace bowler Bates was the overall MVP winner across all domestic competitions last year but is yet to make a Black Caps squad; not even the group of 30 from which the World Cup contingent will be selected later this month.

When Auckland needed an overseas player and a team man, Adams was the perfect contender. Despite playing one test, 42 one-day internationals and four T20 matches for New Zealand, the 35-year-old is now classed as an overseas player through a complex legal loophole known as the Kolpak rule. It means he is contracted to English county Nottinghamshire under his West Indian heritage.

Adams' qualities as a team man are respected. A former club team-mate says once, ahead of a crucial match for his Auckland club side Grafton, Adams held court by pulling out an anonymous looking silver can with the label Grandma's old-fashioned, secret recipe whoop-ass stuck on the side. He opened the can with an enormous crack while describing what they were going to unleash on the opposition. Adams was also remembered as a tremendous mimic of team-mates' bowling and batting styles. Practice was sometimes suspended as he entertained a captive audience.

But there was a darker side back then. His fiery temperament delayed a premier grade match against Howick-Pakuranga while an umpire received a face-to-face verbal volley. Then there was the month-long suspension for shaking the helmet of Central Districts' Bevan Griggs in March 2007. He suffered by being overlooked for the Black Caps one-day side to tour South Africa towards the end of that year, despite consistent form.

Adams says he has mellowed and is quick to point out he is not a mercenary: "I don't get paid enough to be described as that," he laughs.

Not only did Adams help Auckland to the HRV Cup victory last week - including the competition's only five-wicket bag (5-20) in their opening match against Central Districts - he also took two crucial wickets on the last day of the county championship to see Nottinghamshire win on countback from Somerset in September. He is one of just 11 Kiwis to achieve that feat.

So have New Zealand fans - and the Black Caps - missed him at his best?

"It's a question I've had a lot lately. I had dinner with Flem [Stephen Fleming] a couple of weeks ago and we debated why New Zealand cricketers don't succeed over longer periods. I think it is because the selectors drop players too early, which prevents them from being consistent. But I've come full circle, I'm playing because I love it.

"Three years back, I looked at my career and thought I've probably only got two years left, but working in the gym during the off-season strengthened me. In England, I was the fastest and strongest I'd been in five years. I've had trainers making sure I kept the weight off, too.

"It has been a pleasure being back with this young Auckland side. There is plenty of respect towards older players like myself, Lou [Vincent] and Kyle [Mills]."

Adams stresses the need for a settled team in the HRV Cup.

"Compare our campaign to that of Northern Districts, who had an amazing player in Brad Hodge. He was a great option but, once he left, he took a lot of the confidence - and runs - with him. Other players need to live up to it after that.

"Jimmy Adams was a good example with us. He guaranteed you something most games. He was a good man in the shed, then a rock star on the field and saved his best for last with that match-winning innings [62 off 43 balls] in the final."

It is debatable whether Andre Adams will represent Auckland in the yet-to-be-scheduled Champions League.

"I need permission from Notts to get there. If they're in pole position at the end of the season [in September] and it coincides with the tournament, I can't see it happening."

As for 27-year-old Bates, he acknowledges he needs to speed up to realise any dream of playing internationals.

"I'm bowling at the lower end of the 130km/h scale, so my lack of speed is something I'm constantly battling. I've been working with [former Olympic sprinter] Chris Donaldson on my run-up technique.

"I'll struggle to step into the international reckoning otherwise, because guys with my pace have always been around. You've also got [faster] left-armers like Andy McKay, Trent Boult, Ben Wheeler and soon Neil Wagner coming through."

He says he has benefited having Black Caps bowlers like Adams, Mills, Chris Martin and Daryl Tuffey around the squad - and when they are not there.

"None were around last year so I learnt a lot more about dealing with pressure. I worked at slowing down my thought processes in T20 and clearing my head. I wanted to make sure the selectors couldn't get rid of me, so death bowling is an area I targeted."

That came to the fore in the final two games. His opening over in the final saw him take three wickets for no runs from his first four balls against Central Districts.