Exploring the Cricketing Legacy of Daniel Vettori

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Just how good is Daniel Vettori? An ordinary cricketer or a great cricketer in an ordinary team?

Ben Roberts described Daniel Vettori as a “Good, Ordinary, Cricketer” a few weeks back. It’s now the turn of Mayank Jhaveri (who also blogs at Freehit and No Holding Back) to present the case that he is a great cricketer in an ordinary team…

New Zealand, much like South Africa, has never been known to produce quality spinners. Surprisingly, the best left-arm spinner I have seen and arguably second best ever only to Bishen Singh Bedi, comes from New Zealand.  The man, Daniel Vettori is certainly a class act.

Daniel Vettori has done practically everything he could for NZ Cricket. He has taken wickets, scored loads of runs, led them as skipper, doubled up as coach and even done the job of a selector. He is the world’s fifth highest wicket taker in tests among spinners. Still, for some reason, he is almost never considered good enough to be compared to the top four. Probably because his strike rate and average is higher than these four, but mostly because he plays for New Zealand, who aren’t the most competitive team in the world.

Personally, I feel he is a better cricketer than all of those four (Murali, Warne, Kumble and Harbhajan). Mind you, I said cricketer and not spinner. The best spinner remains Muttiah Muralidharan, but as a cricketer, Vettori is definitely ahead. After all, which of these spinners have managed to score six test hundreds at an average of 30. Scoring 4000 test runs along with getting 300 test scalps is no ordinary achievement. In spite of being only the third (after Kapil Dev and Ian Botham) to cross this double landmark, he is one of least celebrated cricketer around. Had he been playing for Sri Lanka or India, he would have been a cult hero.

For all the cricket I have seen, I have felt Steve Waugh, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar and Anil Kumble, Jacques Kallis are some of the most intelligent cricketing brains. For me, Daniel Vettori is pretty close to these honourable men, if not at par with them. The way he varies his guile, lengths and speeds without any problem in being accurate is incredible. He may not have the turn of Murali or the charisma of Warne, but is more than effective nonetheless. He is not only the most successful left-arm spinner of all time in tests, but also the highest wicket taker in ODIs for NZ.

Many times, you see various spinners or bowlers complaining on how unresponsive some track was and how difficult it made their job.  Yet, I have never seen this tall kiwi bowler complain about how almost every pitch in his country is tailor-made for fast bowlers. He goes on doing his job without any hassles or issues. He is a silent performer who probably believes in making all statements through his performances. In this sense too, he is a lot like Tendulkar, Dravid and Kumble.

Many Indians, talk about how many of Tendulkar’s hundreds went in losing causes because he didn’t have great support for a good part of his career. Similarly, Vettori has been toiling hard in the Black Caps team which just isn’t performing. The team is in free fall state since 2008 or so with even Bangladesh giving them a 4-0 thrashing in an ODI series. Even when the all-rounder from Northern Districts was at his peak back in 2005-06, his country was not doing all that great. He was picked in ICC World XI in ’05, where he got a superb four wicket haul against the mighty Australians. He was also New Zealand’s “Cricketer of the Year” for two consecutive years in ‘05 as well as ’06. The man has 21 five wicket hauls in international cricket along with 6 centuries and 26 half centuries in a career that has lasted 14 years now. What more can you possibly ask for ??

Recently, it was announced that Vettori will not remain skipper after the World Cup 2011. I was absolutely surprised by this news, because to be frank, there is no wiser head in New Zealand cricket than this calm gentlemen. Though, whoever is made the new captain, will surely need all the assists from this experienced campaigner to have a chance to revive NZ cricket.

The fine all-rounder with more than 650 international wickets and 6000 international runs,  has to be lauded for all his achievements and hard work. When it comes to accuracy in bowling, Vettori is, in a way, Glenn McGrath of spin bowling. When it comes to batting, he is always there to bat his team out of trouble, particularly in tests. Even in T20s, he is seen bowling tidy spells which test quality batsmen and often provide crucial breakthroughs.

I sincerely hope that New Zealand get back on track. Not only because, it will help in improving overall competition among teams, but it might just give Vettori the much needed successful end to a long and hard fought career. From being the youngest test and ODI cricketer for NZ, he might end up becoming their highest wicket taker in tests. Here’s hoping this unsung hero does that and much more.

You can follow Mayank on twitter @mikey7007

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