Spinners September 28, 2009

One horse for this course

Can one of the other four finger-spinners upset Vettori?

It is not easy being a spinner in New Zealand. Neither the weather nor the pitches are conducive to spin bowling, which makes it a brave decision to try and make a living through spin. Until Daniel Vettori surfaced - the most successful spinner from New Zealand and the most successful left-arm orthodox overall - their job too was limited to being support cast to the fast bowlers. As expected, only one man from before the seventies makes it - Tom Burtt, who played 10 Tests in the forties and the fifties.

There must be something about left-arm spin in New Zealand: four of the five on this shortlist bowled slow left-arm orthodox. Wrist-spinners are expectedly conspicuous by their absence; perhaps New Zealand just isn't the place for them. The only right-arm contender here is offspinner John Bracewell, whose 41-Test career saw him achieve the double of 100 wickets and 1000 runs. The numbers, the stature, and the impact, though, all make one man on this list the clear favourite, and he also happens to be one of New Zealand's most powerful captains.

The contenders

Hedley Howarth Like the great Clarrie Grimmett, Howarth was born on Christmas Day. With the great Hedley Verity he shared his basic occupation, reserves of patience and first name, though not quite the results. Steady rather than spectacular, Howarth managed only two five-fors in a 30-Test career in which he got 86 wickets at around 37.

John Bracewell The eighties were perhaps the worst time to be a spinner, but Bracewell, bowling right-arm finger-spin, managed a strike-rate of less than 82. Only Abdul Qadir and Iqbal Qasim among regular spinners managed to take wickets more often in the decade.

Tom Burtt Stockily built, Burtt's biggest strength was the ability to keep hitting the same length with smart variations of flight. He was unorthodox in the sense that he used his middle finger to impart spin as opposed to the forefinger as orthodox left-armers do. His 408 first-class wickets at 22 were a New Zealand record before Richard Hadlee went past him.

Daniel Vettori Vettori was the youngest to play Tests for New Zealand, and has been difficult to keep out of the team since his debut 12 years ago. He recently went past Derek Underwood as the most successful left-arm spinner in the history of the game, is all set to become the second New Zealander to play 100 Tests, and could well creep up on Hadlee's New Zealand record of 431 wickets. His batting tilts the scales that much more.

Stephen Boock Boock had the prime virtue of a left-arm spinner, control, but his career coincided with the emergence of limited-overs cricket, and thus less respect for the spinners. In 30 Tests he managed 74 wickets at 34.64.

We'll be publishing an all-time New Zealand XI based on readers' votes to go with our jury's XI. To vote for your top New Zealand spinner click here

Sidharth Monga is a staff writer at Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • robotiger on October 2, 2009, 0:08 GMT

    Just following on from bradluen's comments, once we have selected these 11 players what 'players' do we get? Shall we consider each player to be at the top of their form or perhaps their average form? The start, middle, end of their career? It makes a big difference. The final 5 years of Cairns career produced incredible results (batting av 43, bowling 25). Astle would be a shoe-in if we only think of 'top' form - his 222 ensures that. However, I personally do not think such distinctions can be made. It must be on average form - which is why I believe career statistics should be the primary mode of selection. I know it's a kind of silly, moot point, but just something to think about, and interesting to consider when selecting each player. I'd rather have the younger attacking Vettori bowler, in the knowledge that stronger batting will be available in the all time eleven. But how can we possibly select players on such a basis?

  • vrushi55 on October 1, 2009, 20:01 GMT

    Vettori will probably take this this one.

  • Maui3 on September 30, 2009, 22:42 GMT

    Vetori, by default and mostly because of his batting. Can we speed this thing up please? I am losing interest in this. Take 6 weeks a pick a NZ side? By the time you are through with all 10 teams for test, ODI and twenty20, The sun would cool down.

  • bradluen on September 30, 2009, 9:56 GMT

    Yeah, Grimmett would make it interesting. But if we went by nation of birth, the Aussies would get Matthew Sinclair. How would we cope?

    ...As much as I like Boock (whose figures would be much better without that 1/229 that led to his final dumping and a nation of "bring back Boock" signs), the main choice is between the 21-year-old Vettori who attacked batsmen and nearly won us a Test against Australia single-handedly (if only our top order were decent) and the current seasoned pro who is kind of a stock bowler but saves us again and again with the bat (and really shouldn't be coming in lower than number 7). And actually, if you prefer the latter, might you not be better off forsaking spin in order to play both JR Reid and CL Cairns?

  • amdtelrunya on September 29, 2009, 19:18 GMT

    The categories for this selection are all wrong. Two openers and three middle order players are fine, but only being able to pick one all rounder, when NZ has possibly 3 all rounders that could fit into this team, being three of Cairns, Reid, Hadlee and Vettori. And yet Taylor is included as an all rounder when both Vettori and Hadlee are superior batsmen? And having a spinners category for NZ is ridiculous, as shown by the quality of the nominees. Howarth had a strike rate of 102 for goodness sake! Spinners should just be included with pace bowlers for the final three spots if they are good enough. I would have had two openers, three middle order, three allrounders and three bowlers as the makeup of my team.

  • Gazzaman on September 29, 2009, 18:46 GMT

    Clarrie Grimmett was clearly a Kiwi, and would have been by far and away our best spin bowler had he had the opportunity to actually play test cricket for us. He only left NZ at the age of 24 in 1914 after several seasons of first class cricket for Wellington. He had debuted at the age of 17. There was no opportunity for him to play test cricket in those days, as New Zealand were not made a test playing nation til 1930. In fact Grimmett did play against the touring Australian team when they toured NZ in 1914.

  • robotiger on October 2, 2009, 0:08 GMT

    Just following on from bradluen's comments, once we have selected these 11 players what 'players' do we get? Shall we consider each player to be at the top of their form or perhaps their average form? The start, middle, end of their career? It makes a big difference. The final 5 years of Cairns career produced incredible results (batting av 43, bowling 25). Astle would be a shoe-in if we only think of 'top' form - his 222 ensures that. However, I personally do not think such distinctions can be made. It must be on average form - which is why I believe career statistics should be the primary mode of selection. I know it's a kind of silly, moot point, but just something to think about, and interesting to consider when selecting each player. I'd rather have the younger attacking Vettori bowler, in the knowledge that stronger batting will be available in the all time eleven. But how can we possibly select players on such a basis?

  • vrushi55 on October 1, 2009, 20:01 GMT

    Vettori will probably take this this one.

  • Maui3 on September 30, 2009, 22:42 GMT

    Vetori, by default and mostly because of his batting. Can we speed this thing up please? I am losing interest in this. Take 6 weeks a pick a NZ side? By the time you are through with all 10 teams for test, ODI and twenty20, The sun would cool down.

  • bradluen on September 30, 2009, 9:56 GMT

    Yeah, Grimmett would make it interesting. But if we went by nation of birth, the Aussies would get Matthew Sinclair. How would we cope?

    ...As much as I like Boock (whose figures would be much better without that 1/229 that led to his final dumping and a nation of "bring back Boock" signs), the main choice is between the 21-year-old Vettori who attacked batsmen and nearly won us a Test against Australia single-handedly (if only our top order were decent) and the current seasoned pro who is kind of a stock bowler but saves us again and again with the bat (and really shouldn't be coming in lower than number 7). And actually, if you prefer the latter, might you not be better off forsaking spin in order to play both JR Reid and CL Cairns?

  • amdtelrunya on September 29, 2009, 19:18 GMT

    The categories for this selection are all wrong. Two openers and three middle order players are fine, but only being able to pick one all rounder, when NZ has possibly 3 all rounders that could fit into this team, being three of Cairns, Reid, Hadlee and Vettori. And yet Taylor is included as an all rounder when both Vettori and Hadlee are superior batsmen? And having a spinners category for NZ is ridiculous, as shown by the quality of the nominees. Howarth had a strike rate of 102 for goodness sake! Spinners should just be included with pace bowlers for the final three spots if they are good enough. I would have had two openers, three middle order, three allrounders and three bowlers as the makeup of my team.

  • Gazzaman on September 29, 2009, 18:46 GMT

    Clarrie Grimmett was clearly a Kiwi, and would have been by far and away our best spin bowler had he had the opportunity to actually play test cricket for us. He only left NZ at the age of 24 in 1914 after several seasons of first class cricket for Wellington. He had debuted at the age of 17. There was no opportunity for him to play test cricket in those days, as New Zealand were not made a test playing nation til 1930. In fact Grimmett did play against the touring Australian team when they toured NZ in 1914.

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  • Gazzaman on September 29, 2009, 18:46 GMT

    Clarrie Grimmett was clearly a Kiwi, and would have been by far and away our best spin bowler had he had the opportunity to actually play test cricket for us. He only left NZ at the age of 24 in 1914 after several seasons of first class cricket for Wellington. He had debuted at the age of 17. There was no opportunity for him to play test cricket in those days, as New Zealand were not made a test playing nation til 1930. In fact Grimmett did play against the touring Australian team when they toured NZ in 1914.

  • amdtelrunya on September 29, 2009, 19:18 GMT

    The categories for this selection are all wrong. Two openers and three middle order players are fine, but only being able to pick one all rounder, when NZ has possibly 3 all rounders that could fit into this team, being three of Cairns, Reid, Hadlee and Vettori. And yet Taylor is included as an all rounder when both Vettori and Hadlee are superior batsmen? And having a spinners category for NZ is ridiculous, as shown by the quality of the nominees. Howarth had a strike rate of 102 for goodness sake! Spinners should just be included with pace bowlers for the final three spots if they are good enough. I would have had two openers, three middle order, three allrounders and three bowlers as the makeup of my team.

  • bradluen on September 30, 2009, 9:56 GMT

    Yeah, Grimmett would make it interesting. But if we went by nation of birth, the Aussies would get Matthew Sinclair. How would we cope?

    ...As much as I like Boock (whose figures would be much better without that 1/229 that led to his final dumping and a nation of "bring back Boock" signs), the main choice is between the 21-year-old Vettori who attacked batsmen and nearly won us a Test against Australia single-handedly (if only our top order were decent) and the current seasoned pro who is kind of a stock bowler but saves us again and again with the bat (and really shouldn't be coming in lower than number 7). And actually, if you prefer the latter, might you not be better off forsaking spin in order to play both JR Reid and CL Cairns?

  • Maui3 on September 30, 2009, 22:42 GMT

    Vetori, by default and mostly because of his batting. Can we speed this thing up please? I am losing interest in this. Take 6 weeks a pick a NZ side? By the time you are through with all 10 teams for test, ODI and twenty20, The sun would cool down.

  • vrushi55 on October 1, 2009, 20:01 GMT

    Vettori will probably take this this one.

  • robotiger on October 2, 2009, 0:08 GMT

    Just following on from bradluen's comments, once we have selected these 11 players what 'players' do we get? Shall we consider each player to be at the top of their form or perhaps their average form? The start, middle, end of their career? It makes a big difference. The final 5 years of Cairns career produced incredible results (batting av 43, bowling 25). Astle would be a shoe-in if we only think of 'top' form - his 222 ensures that. However, I personally do not think such distinctions can be made. It must be on average form - which is why I believe career statistics should be the primary mode of selection. I know it's a kind of silly, moot point, but just something to think about, and interesting to consider when selecting each player. I'd rather have the younger attacking Vettori bowler, in the knowledge that stronger batting will be available in the all time eleven. But how can we possibly select players on such a basis?