November 6, 2007

The likeable librarian

Daniel Vettori will bring a wealth of experience and cricket sense to the New Zealand captaincy

Vettori stepped up at the right time © Getty Images

The first time I got an inkling that Daniel Vettori might be captain material was in 2003. The Black Caps were touring Sri Lanka and were in the middle of a warm-up game. I had batted all day for a century. When stumps were drawn and I walked off, I expected plenty of praise from my team-mates. I got it from some, but from Daniel all I got was a steely look and a lecture on how the way I had batted could cost us in the Test matches. It was thought that as Muttiah Muralitharan was the main threat to us, we could allow ourselves the luxury of playing particularly cautiously against him if we were positive against the others.

"You defended or left just about every half-volley that came your way!" Daniel yelled at me. It surprised me because one, that was nothing new, and two, Dan wasn't really the type to pipe up in such fashion. I had always thought of him as the sort that was just happy to bowl when the captain said bowl, and then go home at the end of the day pretty even-tempered, regardless of the outcome to team and person.

Not one to take criticism very well, in the second innings I decided to go completely over the top with my response to Daniel's outburst. Rather than just be stubborn and continue to let just about every over-pitched ball go, I decided to overreact and play with wild abandon. I made one of the best nineties of my life.

This time when I left the field, I got a different reaction. Not a "Well done, old boy" but another steely look, minus the lecture. It was a look that said, "Don't doubt me, I know what I'm talking about."

Without a doubt Daniel Vettori does know cricket. His bespectacled look is no cliché of an intelligent school-librarian type: he is an intelligent school-librarian type, though one with a likeable, mischievous side. He's a well-read scholar in life, and sitting in the corner of the Black Caps dressing room for ten years he has filed away a lot of information.

Perhaps his laidback nature and belief that actions and statistics speak louder than words have meant that for a long time he was never in the selectors' sights as a future captain. Players like Craig McMillan, Chris Cairns and Jacob Oram were the ones who got the post of second in command to Stephen Fleming, who everyone thought had the job for as long as he wanted, but then again, perhaps it's testament to Vetter's intelligence that he stepped up just at the right time - when the knives, if not already being sharpened for Fleming, were definitely being located in the cutlery drawer.

Vettori has played as a young man in a team that was rebuilding, he has played as a maturing man in a team that has set history for New Zealand cricket, he has bowled influentially in many victories. Now he sees himself in the most influential role in a side that must rebuild again

Bowlers are often not thought of as prime candidates for captaincy because it is in the field that a captain arguably has his say the most, and he needs to make the gut calls about who to bowl and how. For a bowler it can be difficult under pressure to see past his own performance and remain clear and impartial. When it comes to spin bowlers, these thoughts are even more widely accepted, but it is hoped that Vettori has the ability to manage not only himself but the unit.

I say "hoped" because he is yet to do so in a Test match, although he has already coped admirably in the more formulaic world of the ODI. Then again, there may not be a need to hope: maybe Vettori has been thinking like a captain all along for many years. He was often called upon by Fleming to perform a variety of roles, and he would oblige most accurately. This may just show that Vettori already knew what was required, had been thinking about it, and had prepared for it long before he got the nod.

Over the last four years Vettori has shown that he has real passion for the fortunes of New Zealand cricket. He has played as a young man in a team that was rebuilding, he has played as a maturing man in a team that has set history for New Zealand, and he has led the bowling in many victories. Now he sees himself in the most influential role in a side that must rebuild again. He would have watched closely as Fleming rebuilt the team, and also looked on as it began to slide. Now it's his turn to build a legacy for himself.

Often a New Zealand captain is hamstrung by the lack of match-winning potential around him. The team that Vettori inherits must play above itself, but if he can get a stubborn old-timer like me to play out of his skin, I have faith that he can get a young team of enthusiasts to do the same.

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Suryanarayana on November 8, 2007, 7:38 GMT

    Daniel Vettori will be as good as any captain of New Zealand. He has a great temperament and will be a leader by example. His attitude with both the bat and the ball is that of a fighter - rarely have I seen Vettori give up or droop his shoulders on a cricket field.

    Having said that, it is quite unlikely that Vettori's record as a captain would be spectacular. New Zealand is made up of way too many bits-and-pieces players who cannot hold their own against world class teams for sustained periods in the game. In One Day and Twenty20 cricket, they would fare much better but with the current Test team they are not going to do too good.

    However, good luck to Vettori and the Black Caps.

  • syd on November 6, 2007, 12:36 GMT

    Stephen Fleming will now and forever be the best captain in the world since the hey days of Clive Lloyd,he never had a world beating side like some of his other counterparts, but he made the best of what he had. Daniel Vettori has been in the background of New Zealand cricket for a decade and has played an integral part in the development of New Zealand cricket team into a good bunch of internationnal cricketers , and he has learnt from a master, he jas an excellent cricketing brain, the ability ot back his words ( though rarely spoken). He will be a good captain, and let us hope he can emmulate his former captain and become one of the best captains the world has seen.

  • Noman on November 6, 2007, 10:51 GMT

    I really love this bloke and there's no better left-arm spinner than him in World Cricket as he showed during the T20 World Cup. What a delight he's been for the purist with his guile and talent. I hope him the best as I look forward to the upcoming series.


    NYD, Karachi, Pakistan!

  • Ayush on November 6, 2007, 10:06 GMT

    Rather than living up to Fleming's legacy, I expect Vettori to surpass it, and create a legacy of his own. It's a tall order, mainly due to the fact that Fleming has captained for a long time and is widely regarded as one of the greatest captains of modern times, but Vettori has inherited a good team from Fleming, and has shown an aggressive streak in his captaincy, which could well take New Zealand to new heights.

  • bruce on November 6, 2007, 8:51 GMT

    Much as I hate to say this I think the nz cricket team will be on a journey of "rebuilding" for quite some time to come. We just don't have the talent of the likes of Cairns, Astle (apart from maybe Ross Taylor), McMillan, Bond or Fleming coming through and I don't see that changing any time soon.

    I think Vettori will be a good captain - comparisons against Fleming are completely unfair, especially at such an early stage. Fleming has been our best captain in the last 30 years, if not ever. However, limited resources means I believe this will not reflect kindly on his record. Please let me be proved wrong!

    As every follower of nz cricket knows, we go through painful 5 (or so) year periods where the good times are few and far between....and unfortunately I believe we're just at the beginning of the next one....oh and bring on John Wright!

  • Aditya on November 6, 2007, 8:44 GMT

    It is quite unbelievable, that a left arm spin bowler, having the qualities of Vettori, is to be found in New Zealand. I write this, because, I cannot recall another incidence, to this respect. He is the most open minded, left arm spinner, to be playing international cricket. Murali Karthik, is more of a natural, left arm spinner, but Vettori, is extremely intelligent. He is among the best ever. I will mention Murali Karthik, and Mr Bishen Singh Bedi, when I think of a more complete type of left arm spinner, but Vettori has serious talent. I will watch the soon to start Kiwi/South Africa series with not a little interest, as the last series between them in New Zealand, was so engrossing.

  • richard on November 6, 2007, 7:20 GMT

    Daniel Vettori has a mind that was meant for cricket. On a typical New Zealand pitch that lacks any spin he uses masterful flight,drift and change in pace to out-guile the opposition. As a batsman has no real 'classical' technique, nor the best eye. However he has his game worked out and currently has the highest test average of all time for a number 8 test batsman worldwide. As a captain his ODI leadership has been very successful to date. From 11 matches he has led New Zealand to 8 wins. He also averages 21.4 with the bat and 21.28 with the ball at an economy rate of 3.56 as captain in these ODIs. He has shown in the 2 first class matches played in South Africa that he can individually perform and lead the way in the longer format. However the test arena will be tough and will provide many learning curves for Vettori. I personally beleive he will better Fleming's legacy. Vettori's main concern is the pitiful form of the top order and possession of only one spearhead bowler in Bond.

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