GALLE - Considering the multitude of injury setbacks Jacob Oram has experienced during his cricket career, New Zealand's designated allrounder has taken a demotion on the chin.
Oram might be approaching the two-test series against Sri Lanka in arguably the best shape of his intermittent 31-match career.
But the 30-year-old's clean bill of health has been tempered by the realisation he has surrendered his batting role to wicketkeeper and vice-captain Brendon McCullum.
When available Oram has had a lock on the No 6 berth but for this tour McCullum moves up a slot on the basis of his superior numbers.
Oram's lack of recent test experience also influenced the decision to rearrange the New Zealand middle order.
The Chittagong test in Bangladesh last October was Oram's last five-day match for New Zealand; back and Achilles tendon injuries made him unavailable for the home series' against the West Indies and India.
He eventually returned during the limited overs formats last summer, and encouragingly negotiated the Indian Premier League and ICC World Twenty20 without incident.
But there is no doubting Oram has not yet recaptured the form that enabled him to compile five test hundreds and the same number of half centuries.
"I understand the reasons behind swapping with Brendon," he said after heavy rain washed out yesterday's scheduled training session at Galle International Stadium.
"With me not being around Brendon's taken a lot more responsibility with the bat over the last 12-18 months."
On his fourth tour of Sri Lanka, Oram remains one of the key figures on a challenging five-week programme which, provided the weather clears, presents its first stumbling block tomorrow.
Oram, McCullum, Daniel Vettori and Chris Martin are vastly experienced compared to openers Tim McIntosh, Martin Guptill and first drop Daniel Flynn.
And for all their obvious talent Ross Taylor and Jesse Ryder are also in the formative phases of their careers.
So the onus is on Oram to produce runs and apply the screws on the Sri Lankan batting line-up when employed as the third seam bowler.
Oram's medical history suggests his medium pacers pose the greatest threat to his playing longevity though he was confident of completing his donkey work.
"There's no indication I won't be able to do it," he said.
"I felt great through the IPL and T20. Admittedly it's only four overs but you do know when your body's feeling good.
"I put in five or six weeks of pretty hard training leading into this tour and what I've done here so far confirms I'm as fit as I have been for a long time."
However, Oram feared that bowling might eventually be beyond him.
"I just hope I can stay injury-free because if I break down again, maybe it's decision time," he said. But he was happy with his performance against a local selection last week.
"The ball's coming out OK. I know I got a bit of tap the other day but to get some time at the wicket reminded me of how to go about batting and getting some runs."
Oram scored a patient 42 in New Zealand's first innings and was unbeaten on 35 when a draw was declared.
His 10 overs for 56 were not as compelling, though only two were treated harshly by Tillakaratne Dilshan.
McCullum, meanwhile, relished his promotion.
"It'll be a change from trying to hang on with the tail and negotiate the strike towards the end," he said.
"While it's good fun it can be a little bit different to scoring normal runs at No 6."
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