Daniel Vettori is his own man. For someone so laconic and gracious, the bespectacled New Zealand skipper sure does bridle at comparison, even when the comparison is against one of the greatest players his country has ever produced, someone so well respected that he is known as “captain nonpareil” back home.
But ask Vettori about Stephen Fleming’s unceremonious ouster as New Zealand Test skipper — something that got Fleming’s goat and prompted him to hang up his boots prematurely — and how is he going to carry that legacy forward, especially keeping in mind the empty tank of talent on which New Zealand cricket is running on, he discards those sugar-coated words and diplomacy that are associated with today’s politically correct cricketers.
“Stephen was fabulous for New Zealand cricket, no words can do justice to what he has done. He has taken us from strength to strength,” Vettori said, weighing his words carefully before shooting. “But then, he was 35… It was perhaps time to go, as he wouldn’t have stuck around for a long time. Anyway, it would be wrong to compare me with Stephen, I have to carve my own niche.”
It is hard not to empathise with Vettori. With the cream of his team jumping ship to join the rebel ICL, and an even smaller pool of domestic cricketers to choose from, the naysayers are certainly not giving him a whiff of a chance. But if Vettori is indeed feeling any heat, he surely does well to disguise it behind his cogent words.
“We have done well. It was indeed sad to see Shane Bond and the rest leave; I mean that was a body blow. They had good offers. The kind of money available to the Indian players is not available to us, so people can’t be faulted for that.
“But we do have good young players coming through. We are a talented team that is finding its feet. We did well against England and although we lost the Test series, New Zealand cricket is, contrary to popular belief, not dying a slow death,” he rasped.
For someone who has always chosen bravado over bravura, Vettori does have the wherewithal and the “fire within” that are the hallmarks of a good captain.
For starters, he is a captain who leads from the front, and doesn’t blink in the eye of storm.
A prime example was against India in the Twenty20 World Cup, when off-spinner Jeetan Patel was hit for 21 runs in his first over. The very next over, Vettori replaced Patel with himself and took two wickets.
“I like to take responsibility. As captain, you have to know the strengths and weaknesses of your players, and that way you maximize opportunities,” he simpered, refusing to take credit.
One of the last representatives of the moribund art of spin bowling, Vettori said that he would develop spinners during his 44-day stint with Delhi Daredevils in the IPL, which he termed as an unique opportunity, and felt spinners have a huge role even in the Twenty20 format.
He also observed that more than international players, it would be the domestic cricketers who would determine which team finishes on top.
“How the Indian players fare will be crucial, no doubt. You only have a limited number of foreigners in a team, so much will depend on the domestic players. Blending with them will also be vital to create understanding, and the team that gels the best will have a strong chance.”
As an indication of how the Indian Premier League has entered the consciousness of players and public alike, Vettori feels that the ICC should have a window for it in the Futures Tour Programme (FTP).
“I don’t think anybody will retire to play in the IPL. But it is difficult when big offers come your way. I think everybody would like to see some space for the IPL in the FTP. If it is feasible, then it will be great and easy on the players,” he said.