ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 / News
Sri Lanka v New Zealand, 1st semi-final, World Cup 2011, Colombo
Vettori considering three-spinner attack
Firdose Moonda in Colombo
March 28, 2011
Daniel Vettori would make a bad bridesmaid. He wouldn't fit the role of the person dressed up to walk down the aisle behind someone more important. He is the important one.
At the best of times, Vettori is abrupt - probably not intentionally, but because it's part of his character. He is a no-nonsense kind of guy who gives a straight answer to most questions. Whether he expected to be sitting in a press conference as the only non-subcontinental team captain at the World Cup semi-finals, he won't say, but he seems rightly annoyed with being asked if his team is excited to have got this far.
"It's the semi-final of the World Cup, everyone is ecstatic," he said dryly. Of course they are. New Zealand have proven themselves to be one of the top four teams in the tournament. They beat the odds. After a group stage which saw them record victory over only one major team, Pakistan, and get thumped by two others, Sri Lanka and Australia, they came into the quarter-finals as one of the weaker sides. Very few people expected them to raise their game enough to beat South Africa and even when talking about that victory, very few people say that it was New Zealand who won the game. Most say it was South Africa who lost it.
Vettori doesn't really want to talk about that anymore, because he has more important things on his mind. "We need to move on pretty quickly from the South Africa game. We're proud of our achievement, but we need to concentrate on the semi-final." Most people paid him very little attention when he made that point, probably because most don't expect New Zealand to get past the semi-finals. That's partly because they are playing a very strong Sri Lanka side and partly because this will be their sixth World Cup semi-final, without having ever made the final.
"Everyone wants to talk about our record [of always going out at the semi-final stage], but this is an amazing achievement for a small country," Vettori said, which hinted that he was satisfied enough with having come this far. He recovered quickly though. "We have our expectations, it's irrelevant what people say. We reached the Champions Trophy final in 2009, there we went one step further." New Zealand were horribly outplayed in that match, losing to Australia by six wickets. But, it was an important exercise for them, because they played in a final of an ICC tournament - for the first time since the 2000 Champions Trophy, which they won, beating India - and experienced the pressures of a do-or-die encounter of a different kind.
Vettori knows consistency is the key. "When we've won well, we've followed it up with a poor performance," he said referring to the group stage. "We've got to make sure we have another big performance in the bag because Sri Lanka will be very strong in home conditions."
Sri Lanka have looked the side to beat and on a pitch where they asserted their authority over England, they will be tough to handle. Vettori is toying with the idea of picking three spinners for the match. "The fact that it's a used wicket may allow us to do that, but Sri Lanka have grown up playing spin."
Getting their combination right for the semi-final will not be the trickiest thing for New Zealand, it will be making sure that that combination works well on the day. Vettori said that they were fortunate to have "one or two batsmen and a bowler or two who could stand up" in the knockouts. "It was Jesse Ryder and Jacob Oram who did it against South Africa. That made the difference and it may have to be someone else who does it now."
Vettori himself, playing in either his penultimate or final match as captain, may be the man to shoulder the responsibility. He knows it's his last chance, as he is firm in his decision to step down as captain. "I've made the decision. You need fresh ideas and people get sick of you." To leave office as the blushing bride probably doesn't quite fit his image either, but Vettori would chose to be the bride over the bridesmaid any day.