New Zealand v India, 2nd Twenty20, Wellington February 27, 2009

Vettori wins with brain in brawn man's game

The skinny man with glasses is an inspiration to bowling captains © Getty Images

One of the joys of Twenty20 cricket, still a young format, has been watching Daniel Vettori bowl. A self-styled skinny man with glasses, he's pitted against bats powered by Popeye biceps - manufacturing new shots every day - and boundaries that converge with increasing frequency. And in 56 overs in his Twenty20 international career, he has given away only 300 runs.

The Popeye biceps didn't do too badly today. Brendon McCullum was far from his explosive self but stayed calm till the end and scored nine off the last three balls to take New Zealand to the win. He acknowledged, though, that the win was set up much earlier, in the first innings of the match. The skinny man with glasses had a lot to do with that - not only as a bowler but as a captain.

The stats tell a story. He has played all his Twenty20 internationals as New Zealand's captain but his ODI figures are a good indicator of how he has raised his game with responsibility. In ODIs he has captained, he averages 26.19 and gives away runs at 3.72 an over, as opposed to 33.95 and 4.27 in matches where he did not lead. As a captain he is prone to the three habits bowling captains are partial to: he usually brings himself on pretty early, chooses to attack when in doubt and picks the most difficult time to bowl. In these two Twenty20s, like a true bowling captain, he has put India in twice.

But good bowlers justify bowling a lot and coming on early, and they can get themselves the best possible fields. The kind of start India had in the first match of the series would have scared any bowler. But Vettori came on in the sixth over. His first over went for two runs and yielded Yuvraj Singh's wicket. Today, with India making a more sedate start, he held himself back and, when he did come on in the eighth over, he applied the brakes, negating the momentum in the middle overs. Yuvraj did hit him for two back-to-back sixes, but his response was typical: one run and a wicket in the next over. The sixes excepted, he gave away nine runs in 22 balls.

This was his third Twenty20 against India, and this was the third time he choked the life out of the "most destructive" batting line-up in the middle overs. Three matches, 59 runs, six wickets. Only Umar Gul has a better economy rate among bowlers who have played at least eight games. There've been 85 Twenty20 internationals so far and, though it might be a small sample, it will be fair to say the two have been the best Twenty20 bowlers.

Vettori enjoys the challenge. Though he lacks Gul's armoury, he is a thinking bowler. He exploits the crease and bowls the orthodox delivery at different paces, as opposed to using the arm ball as the only change of pace. All this while, his approach to the wicket and his arm speed don't give much away. And he's especially effective when he bowls really slowly, which takes big heart.

Vettori is the rock on which his team is built, a trait best revealed in the frenzied Twenty20 format. He took over under difficult circumstances but has kept the faith and earned the respect of his teammates. He's a bit like Anil Kumble: not one for big talk (or hakas as he says) and a quietly fierce competitor, belying his art. Unlike Kumble, though, Vettori has become the captain at the right time, in the prime of his bowling career, and can look forward to at least a few more years at the helm. Bowling captains have found an unlikely hero: a skinny man who wears glasses.

Sidharth Monga is a staff writer at Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • richard on February 28, 2009, 9:09 GMT

    The miserly Vettori has now developed into the best twenty20 bowler in the game. His use of the crease, angle of seam presentation and changes of pace make him vary hard to time. He can also follow a batsman backing away, pitch short when he sees the batsmen coming and seems to have almost every batsman tactically sorted out. Yesterday he sensed Dhoni was looking for a full ball while backing away to hit inside out over cover. So Vettori shortened his length slightly and bowled with slightly more drift and a bit of undercut on his seam presentation allowing the ball to skid through straight on. This didn't allow Dhoni the spin to hit with through the offside and also cramped him up very well. The length didn't allow Dhoni the ability to adjust and sweep with the angle of drift through the legside. In the end Vettori had his opposing number in shackles with the key thrown away. A truly masterful display, from a true master.

  • Adhil on February 28, 2009, 8:40 GMT

    A good 1 GBBG.despite being the so called "world champs" in 20/20s,they were soundly beaten or thumped by a developing nz team & yet they still want to brag about how good india is.we all know they are a good team, maybe in sub continental conditions perhaps & as for Dan,a world class bowler,the best left armer the game has ever seen,& a very educated captain like fleming who had limited resources.the whole world calls this nz team 'weak' but truth be told its a young team thats lead by a wonderful skipper in world cricket & thats Daniel Vettori

  • Balaji on February 28, 2009, 7:24 GMT

    i was reading all the Ind vs NZ Comments by our fans . it seems that all our fans very much over confident of our Current indian team than they are . its not good . we are not even in half the talent of the previous aussie team.Vettori has grown over the years.When he(vettori) toured india last time Dada and sachin sent his deliveries into the stands most times . Since its been a very long time playing against the NZ , it might have been Difficult for our players to predict their game plan . Their Gameplan no 1 has worked for them in both the matches . If we have learned from the mistakes in the first match and if we overcame it in secongd they would have gone for the next plan . But we failed once again in their same strategy . Sehwag and gambhir has to be their around 10 overs . It seems as sehwag and gambhir are in a mindset of 10-10 and not in a 20-20 mood . Vettori clearly spotted gambhir , sehwag are imptnt he made them not to fire in both the matches which cost them the series

  • Mahendra on February 28, 2009, 6:21 GMT

    Good article. Right, vettori has been evolved as tough bowler in recent times. We cannot find much spinners who can get respect in even hard hitting format is amazing. To bowl consistently with strike rate of less than six in twenty 20 is simply unbelievable. He is the one of the fewest players in the world whose game is maturing with age. Indians has to find the ways to score of him with decent strike rate at least in ODI. One cannot underplay blue caps so early as just two twenty 20s are over so far and the cricket thats happened been competitive. It is not sided. I am sure indians are going to bounce back and it is not going to be easy for kiwis to clinch one day and test series as they did in the last tour.

  • Gautham on February 27, 2009, 20:27 GMT

    Oh come on!! This article was about Vettori!!!

    For heaven's sake.. stop talking about how great the Indian team is!!

  • Shashank on February 27, 2009, 14:20 GMT

    Fantastic article. I hope the Indian camp reads this and mulls over its idiocy two times in a row. Not a single player took responsibility. Gambhir was like an impatient kid. Raina was deplorable this time round. Irfan Pathan was an expensive bowler as usual, a liability in both the matches. Sehwag's explosion is infectious but there should be room for some balance, even in a T20.

    It was evident to even the most casual observer that the kiwis had spent more time thinking, studying, planning than the blue caps. "Conditions" can only be blamed so far. The approach was clearly way off.

    Here's hoping that sanity returns before the ODIs or we're in for a mighty one-sided tournament.

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