Lockie Ferguson has some vivid memories from playing cricket in Australia – but they're all ones he'd rather forget.
On his ODI debut in Sydney, a nervous Ferguson's preparation went awry, suffering from cramps as he leaked 73 runs from nine overs. Five days later in Melbourne, his eight overs went for 50. And then, on test debut in Perth last year, Ferguson's tour ended after 11 wicketless overs, hobbling off with a calf injury.
Now, Ferguson is set to head back across the ditch after being named in the Black Caps' ODI squad for the three-match series against Australia, and wryly noted that he has taken some important lessons from his torrid times down under.
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"Drink Powerade before the game so I don't cramp up – geez, that's still a nightmare of mine," Ferguson laughed.
"My debut outing there wasn't great and then my test debut not great [either], so hopefully I can rectify some of that and get through a full game."
The calf injury suffered on that test debut left Ferguson sidelined for nearly two months, and saw him miss the subsequent two tests against Australia, as well as the entire Indian series.
He was touch and go to return for the ODIs against India, but the Black Caps management opted to give Ferguson greater workloads domestically instead, with the speedster playing a pair of one-day and four-day games for Auckland instead.
Having rushed back from injuries earlier in his career, Ferguson knows a cautious approach was the right strategy.
"It's a week-by-week injury and I thought it would recover quicker, like my other muscle injuries – hamstrings and the like – but calves take a lot longer and they're one of those injuries where you're very susceptible to it pinging again.
"It was a pretty tough injury and a pretty long one considering I've been pretty good for the last few years, but I needed to take the time to make sure it was right. Fortunately I've played quite a lot of cricket now so I've got that confidence back in my body.
"With my role and the style I play cricket - trying to bowl quick for long periods of time - it's a hard one to rush back from. Earlier in my career I rushed back a couple of times, but now I know my body really well and know that if I get good game time under my belt that I have the confidence – I'm really happy with the preparation I've had."
Ferguson's absence has given other bowlers an opportunity to shine, and Auckland teammate Kyle Jamieson did just that, to the point where Ferguson has more competition for his spot in the ODI side, and may have been relegated to the fifth-choice seam option in the test arena.
However, speaking with a passion that suggested he wasn't just saying what he thought everyone wanted to hear, Ferguson said he was delighted to see more pressure for places in the Black Caps bowling group.
"I think it's great – I'm a huge believer in competition within a squad, I think it drives the team to be better. It speaks to the depth we have in domestic cricket, which doesn't get talked about as much as it should – our domestic game is actually extremely good. We play on good tracks and it's tough cricket, and that's now showing through with the Black Caps.
"I think that kind of competition within the squad is only going to make us grow stronger. Sure, it makes us who have played think 'Oh gosh, I've got to work harder', but that's surely the best thing possible – if we're all working harder and trying to get better, then the team's going to be better for it."