Friday, December 2, 2011

The Vettori Tragedy

It was 1997 when a certain Daniel Vettori first turned up, a spectacled baby-faced cross between Harry Potter and Goldilocks known only for his ability as a left arm tweaker. He batted at number eleven on debut behind Geoff Allot, who is the owner of test crickets longest duck. Few would have expected great feats from the man.

Nobody eats my porridge  © Action Photographics

Fast forward fourteen years and the mighty achievement list stands as follows:
  • Most wickets
  • Most experienced
  • The only bowler the Australians choose not to attack
  • Successor to Stephen Fleming as captain
  • Three time world cup semi-finalist (out of four)
  • Champions trophy finalist
  • Stand-in coach
  • National co-selector
  • Best batsman

Thats right, best batsman. Epitomized brilliantly by his recently dogged, lone ranger innings of 96, which would have given him the most centuries for any current New Zealand batsman. Unlike the Taylor's and Ryder's who may have better batting averages, they did not face the supreme pressure that Vettori faced at usually 6 wickets down for not many. They did not have to bowl all day. And most importantly, they have far more natural batting ability.

Vettori does not possess a crunchy Tendulkar cover drive, or the easy swivel and pull of Ponting. What Vettori brings to the table is more common sense than the rest of his team combined, a knack for finding gaps and scoring quickly, and absolute discipline and control of his shot selection. Anything that is not in his zone is dead batted or ignored, there is almost so such thing as a loose shot. If you are going to remove him, you need to damn well bowl a ripper.

Its not even worth counting the instances when Vettori was left standing amongst a collapsed heap of junk. The tragedies that he had to endure over the years is almost Shakespearean.

Why do I bother getting up  © Getty Images

Perhaps the most telling story of all, he was near hopeless at the batting crease for the first six years of his career. You always hear of batsman tailing away and losing that natural timing and hand-eye, how often do you hear of a batsman continuously improving?

The numbers simply do not lie:

Span Mat Inns Runs HS Ave SR 100 50 0 4s 6s
97-02 44 64 878 90 16.25 44.59 0 4 11 102 2
03-11 63 100 3446 140 40.06 62.98 6 19 7 422 15

Somewhere in 2003 Vettori must have got struck by lightning, with a bolt of inspiration everything improved. All of his centuries came after 2003 along with 19 of his 23 fifties, his strike rate shot up to a healthy 62 and his average, the supposed benchmark statistic, more than doubled. Anything near 40 marks a genuine batsman. 

So hats off to The Daniel, long may you continue to forge runs in a team hardly deserving of your skill, wit and determination. 

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