INTERVIEW: Daniel Vettori reflects on New Zealand legacy

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Vettori is one of the most successful spinners in history.

Having called time on his illustrious Test career after New Zealand’s World Cup final defeat to Australia in March this year, Daniel Vettori left the international game as one its most prolific all-rounders.

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A combined 705 international wickets across all formats is the most by a New Zealander and, combined with almost 7,000 runs, including six Test hundreds, there is a case to be made for Vettori as the finest all-round cricketer that his country has produced. Sir Richard Hadlee is the only man that comes close for New Zealand, with Vettori joining Hadlee, Ian Botham and Kapil Dev as the only men with over 4,000 Test runs and 300 Test wickets to their name.

It is perhaps natural that at the end of an international career, the player thinks about their legacy. And it is most certainly something that New Zealanders will ponder as the Black Caps attempt to replace such a loyal servant to cricket in their home country. With a studious approach to the sport (and look for that matter) and a fiercely competitive nature that never strayed beyond gentlemanly, Vettori epitomises New Zealand cricket and embodies the spirit in which the nation has long played the game.

Not just a leader of men, captaining the Test side from 2007-11 for 32 Tests, Vettori is easily the country’s best spinner in history. His 361 wickets in Tests are 159 more than the next best figure of John Bracewell’s and it is a tall ask for any player to replicate Vettori’s success with the ball, let alone over the eighteen years that span the slow left-armer’s international career.

Vettori, however, is far less concerned by his lasting mark on the sport.

When asked about any lingering thoughts on his legacy, Vettori told Sport360: “I probably did a little bit when I first started out. I was driven a little bit by statistics.

“But I think the longer you play the more you are guided by team success and that is really how I remember my last couple of years, pushing for those wins. To win that last Test I played in Sharjah and that one day series starting from Dubai all the way through that World Cup final to win most of our games, that was very satisfying.”

Indeed, those wins over Pakistan were superb achievements in conditions catered in favour of the ‘home’ side in the UAE. Add to this a remarkable run to the final of the World Cup, which New Zealand co-hosted alongside eventual winners Australia, and the result is a fitting conclusion to a remarkable career at the top level.

For Vettori it is only the final defeat that holds any feeling of regret. While marching into the tournament’s concluding fixture, New Zealand were unbeaten and had already defeated Australia in a thrilling low-scoring affair in the group stages. Unfortunately for Vettori and his team, Australia proved too powerful in the showpiece, dismissing their opponents in dominant fashion.

“There is satisfaction about making the final, but there is of course disappointment that we didn’t win. That is certainly what we intended to do. People talked about how we were content after the semi-final and moving past that stage but we went into that game in Melbourne thinking this a great opportunity.

“We were playing so well. We hadn’t lost a game for a long, long time. That was the mentality but unfortunately Australia played better.

“We had been playing some good cricket for a while and playing at home you don’t see yourself as an underdog. And I think the crowd that we had in that Australia game and particularly the semi-final against South Africa probably lifted the guys a lot. They were the games that people will remember in New Zealand for a long time to come.”

As they will Vettori, who believes that the spin bowling baton will be successfully passed on to the likes of Mark Craig and Mitchell Santner as New Zealand set about replacing their most potent weapon in their bowling attack.

“I’m 36, I have been playing for 18 years. There are not many people that can put that together. So it seemed the appropriate time after the World Cup and we have some good young cricketers coming through.

“I’ve been fortunate to play with Mark Craig, and fortunate to play with Mitchell Santner, we are at the same domestic team back home. So I can see the future of spin bowling is in really good hands. Those guys in particular, along with the likes of an Ish Sodhi, those guys can be stalwarts for a long time in Tests and One-Dayers. I think they have adaptable qualities as spin bowlers so I wouldn’t be surprised to see them in both formats at some stage.”

As for Vettori, his future lies in T20 cricket.

Currently playing for the Jamaica Tallawahs in the Caribbean Premier League, Vettori then moves on to further franchise cricket in the IPL and Big Bash League where he hopes to hone his coaching skills in cricket’s shortest version of the game with a view to taking up a more permanent role once he has earned his stripes.

“I have a contract with Royal Challengers Bangalore and I have a contract with Brisbane Heat for foreseeable future and they are the teams I am involved with.

“That’s the beauty of T20 franchise cricket that has come in. You have the ability to work with teams for a shorter period of time than traditionally in a coaching role, particularly in international coaching.

“So, for myself with a young family, it really appeals that I work for three to four months a year and the rest of the time you get to spend with the family.

“I think when you have been on the international grind for as long as I have, to step back into it in a coaching role would be difficult to justify. So having that period of time when you can work and earn a good living and still be involved in cricket and still get the opportunity to spend a lot more time with family is great.”

Daniel Vettori is playing for the Jamaica Tallawahs in the Hero Caribbean Premier League, which runs from 20th June to 26th July.

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In contention: Rashid.

Yorkshire leg-spinner Adil Rashid is basking in the joy of being called up to England’s Ashes squad for the first Test in Cardiff.

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The uncapped Rashid was the surprise name in the 13-man squad announced to take on Australia at the SSE Swalec. He was omitted from the four-day team bonding trip to Spain recently, which was largely viewed as an indicator of the squad the hosts would choose.

However, with England keen to bolster their frontline spin options, Rashid and Worcestershire all-rounder Moeen Ali have both been included.

“I’m delighted, over the moon, and am looking forward to going there and seeing what happens,” Rashid said on Yorkshire’s official website.

“It is definitely a career highlight. It’s always a dream to play Test cricket for any youngster, especially to be part of an Ashes squad. I’m really looking forward to it. Hopefully I can do well.”

Rashid was unconcerned after missing out on the training camp in Almeria and thinks playing for Yorkshire in a county match in Durham was better preparation anyway.

“I was just told by ( England assistant coach) Paul Farbrace to come to Durham and get some overs under my belt and see what happened,” he said. “It was good to get some overs under my belt, get into rhythm and bowl my tricks.”

It has been a stellar last 18 months for the 27-year-old, who catapulted himself back into international contention last year by taking 81 wickets for the White Rose in all formats last season.

He continued his recent resurgence with fine, if not spectacular, displays in the limited-overs formats against New Zealand recently, taking eight wickets in five onedayers.

Rashid believes his consistent displays can be attributed to a more carefree attitude on the field.

“I think now I’m a lot more relaxed, looking to spin the ball both ways and have fun, “ he said. “I’m not really worried about going for runs. I look to attack and create chances. That’s all I’ve been thinking over the last two years.”

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