Wellington:Fast bowler Shane Bond moved closer to a Test return on Friday when he was included among 20 players awarded contracts by New Zealand Cricket.
While his former Test teammates Scott Styris, Jamie How and Peter Fulton were among players to lose contracts, Bond has been included, extending his international comeback after his brief stint in the rebel Indian Cricket League.
New Zealand Cricket has decided to immediately welcome back players who had been involved in the ICL, as long as they have severed all ties with the rebel competition. Other countries have imposed a stand-down period on rebel players, delaying their recalls.
Bond, 34, last played for New Zealand at the 2007 World Cup in the West Indies and could make his Test return as early as August, when the Kiwi team begins a tour to Sri Lanka. He has said he hopes to represent New Zealand again in Tests, limited-overs and Twenty20 cricket.
Bond has played too rarely recently for his form to be accurately judged but selector Glenn Turner said he was confident the right-armer could still play at international level.
"Shane Bond is confident he can continue to contribute to the Black Caps," Turner said.
"He has performed well in the shorter form of the game at domestic level while his international track record is outstanding."
Turner said Daryl Tuffey, who also played in the rebel league, was close to winning a contract after strong domestic form.
The list of contracted players released Friday includes six first-time recipients - fast bowlers Brent Arnel and Ian Butler, one-day specialists Grant Elliott and Neil Broom and top order batsmen Martin Guptill and Tim McIntosh.
"Some experienced players have missed out as a result of new players forcing their way into the top 20 and that's a good sign for the game," Turner said.
Other players to miss out after being included on last year's list included fast bowlers Mark Gillespie and Michael Mason and batsmen James Marshall and Aaron Redmond.
Contracted New Zealand players: Brent Arnel, Shane Bond, Neil Broom, Ian Butler, Grant Elliott, James Franklin, Daniel Flynn, Martin Guptill, Gareth Hopkins, Brendon McCullum, Tim McIntosh, Chris Martin, Kyle Mills, Iain O'Brien, Jacob Oram, Jeetan Patel, Jesse Ryder, Tim Southee, Ross Taylor, Daniel Vettori.
Players who did not have their contracts renewed from 2008-09: Peter Fulton, Mark Gillespie, Jamie How, James Marshall, Michael Mason, Aaron Redmond, Scott Styris.