Daniel Vettori is not the sort of person to talk up his own team. Asked recently if the team would be doing the Haka, a fearsome Maori war dance, as they had a man with a rugby background as manager, Vettori simply replied, “Skinny white men in glasses don’t do the Haka.” Vettori, who has been around for 12 seasons, longer than you’d think, feels this New Zealand top order is among the strongest in recent years.
“I have been impressed with our top four. The maturity they have shown in what is a relatively new career for some of them is pretty exciting. Looking back, in all the games I have played, this is the most exciting top-four I have played with. It solidifies the batting order and means we have match-winning ability as well as guys that can adapt to situations.
“It’s also exciting that we can select from quite a big squad and some good players have been left out,” he added, referring to the non-inclusion of Scott Styris, James Franklin and Jeetan Patel.
Still, Vettori would not be drawn into calling his team favourites. “The teams are closely ranked – three and four in the world. India have been playing outstanding cricket leading into this and our home conditions favour us slightly. It is going to be a close battle. I would think we can come away with a series win, but we have to play some of our best cricket.
“The Indians play with freedom. Once they get on a roll, they are difficult to stop. At the moment, the roll is with us; we’ve to make sure we keep it going and keep putting them under some pressure. We are wary of their ability to bounce back.”
New Zealand’s gain
Ishant Sharma’s likely absence should work to New Zealand’s advantage, felt Vettori. “He has bowled so well in his thus-far short international career and has quickly turned into one of the best bowlers in the world. He and Zaheer Khan at the top of the Indian bowling order have made it difficult for a lot of sides. If he is not in the team, then it probably lessens them a little bit.
“I don’t think the lights (at McLean Park) are all that good, so it will be interesting at the end. The wicket looks fantastic, a par score is around 280-300. I keep saying a good team has to be able to both set and chase a target. Whilst I would prefer to chase all the time, we are still always looking at both options.”