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One horse for this course

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

Sidharth Monga

September 28, 2009

Comments: 6 | Text size: A | A

Daniel Vettori toils hard, Sri Lanka v New Zealand, 2nd Test, SSC, Colombo, 1st day, August 26, 2009
Vettori has the strongest case to represent spin in the New Zealand all-time XI © Associated Press
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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

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Posted by 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?

Posted by vrushi55 on (October 1, 2009, 20:01 GMT)

Vettori will probably take this this one.

Posted by 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.

Posted by 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?

Posted by 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.

Posted by 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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New Zealand Jury

Richard Boock
Richard Boock
Veteran sportswriter and author of biographies of Daniel Vettori and Stephen Fleming; Qantas NZ Sports Columnist of the Year
XI: Turner, Dempster, Sutcliffe, Crowe, Donnelly, John R Reid, Chris Cairns, Vettori, Hadlee, Smith, Cowie
Don Cameron
Don Cameron
New Zealand Herald's sports reporter from 1951 to 98 and cricket correspondent from 1960 to 98; covered 207 Tests, now a freelancer
XI: Turner, Sutcliffe, Wright, Crowe, Fleming, John R Reid, Chris Cairns, Hadlee, Smith, Vettori, Cowie
Dylan Cleaver
Dylan Cleaver
Senior sportswriter and cricket correspondent for the Herald on Sunday; has been covering New Zealand cricket since 1997
XI: Turner, Sutcliffe, Dempster, Crowe, Donnelly, John R Reid, Cairns, Vettori, Hadlee, Smith, Bond
Ross Dykes
Ross Dykes
Former chairman of selectors; played 31 first-class matches for Auckland between 1967 and 1976; New Zealand selector from 1990 to 2005; now chief executive of Otago Cricket
XI: Turner, Sutcliffe, Jones, Crowe, Fleming, Cairns, Parore, Vettori, Taylor, Hadlee, Bond
David Leggat
David Leggat
Chief cricket writer and chief sports reporter of the New Zealand Herald
XI: Turner, Dempster, Sutcliffe, Crowe, Donnelly, John R Reid, Smith, Vettori, Hadlee, Motz, Cowie
Jonathan Millmow
Jonathan Millmow
Former New Zealand one-day cricket international and now sports editor of the Dominion Post in Wellington
XI: Turner, Wright, Fleming, Crowe, Sutcliffe, John R Reid, Hadlee, Vettori, Smith, Bond, Cowie
John Morrison
John Morrison
Played 15 Tests and 18 ODIs for New Zealand. Currently a Wellington city councillor, radio commentator, and on the boards of the Basin Reserve and the Westpac Stadium in Wellington
XI: Dempster, Turner, Sutcliffe, Donnelly, Crowe, John R Reid, McCullum, Vettori, Hadlee, Bond, Collinge
Don Neely
Don Neely
President of New Zealand Cricket; national selector for 14 years, seven as convenor; writer and prominent historian
XI: Turner, Richardson, Sutcliffe, Crowe, Donnelly, John R Reid, Chris Cairns, Hadlee, Vettori, Smith, Cowie
Joseph Romanos
Joseph Romanos
First reported on Test cricket in 1976; sports journalist for 35 years, and the author of 40 books
XI: Dempster, Turner, Jones, Crowe, Donnelly, John R Reid, Hadlee, Smith, Bracewell, Motz, Cowie
Bryan Waddle
Bryan Waddle
Radio Sport cricket commentator since 1984; covered over 180 Test matches and nearly 400 ODIs
XI: Turner, Wright, Jones, Crowe, Sutcliffe, John R Reid, Hadlee, Smith, Taylor, Vettori, Bond

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