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McCullum can spark Heat: Vettori

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 19/12/2016 Vince Rugari

Brendon McCullum. © Huw Evans/REX/Shutterstock Brendon McCullum. Brisbane Heat coach Daniel Vettori believes the return of his former Kiwi Test teammate Brendon McCullum can help take the franchise back to the Big Bash League finals for the first time since 2013.

Having recovered from back surgery in February and after missing all of last season's tournament due to international duties, McCullum will captain the Heat in their BBL opener away to the Adelaide Strikers on Wednesday night.

The 35-year-old, who retired from all forms of international cricket earlier this year, played three games for the Heat in their inaugural campaign.

"The guys are pretty excited to have him around," Vettori told reporters on Monday. "He's one of the premier cricketers around the world, not only with his batting but his leadership.

"We were hoping to have him last year, but now we've got him, guys are excited to experience what he's about and I think they've got a taste of it so far."

McCullum failed to fire as the Heat beat the Hobart Hurricanes in two practice matches on the Sunshine Coast at the weekend. But he did smash 36 off 22 for Brisbane club Ipswich-Logan last week in his first innings since surgery.

Vettori said he was confident McCullum and Chris Lynn, another Heat star coming off an injury lay-off, will be key contributors despite interrupted preparations.

Lynn dislocated his shoulder in September during a fielding drill with the Australian side on tour in Sri Lanka.

"I think they know what to do to get themselves up speed pretty quickly," Vettori said.

Winners of the BBL in 2012-13, the Heat have not qualified for the finals for the past three seasons, but Vettori is expecting that to change.

"It's a fresh start, the addition of Brendon will make a big difference - his leadership, his ability at the top of the order, and hopefully the way he plays can rub off on some of the less experienced guys," he said.

"There's high expectations of our batting order and with the bowlers we've got, we can scrap and find a way because there's some really good guys in that set-up."

The only Heat player unavailable for selection on Wednesday night is injured left-arm paceman Josh Lalor.

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