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Interview with Daniel Vettori

(This interview of Daniel Vettori compiled by the New Zealand Cricket Players Association. For more interviews with NZ men and women cricketers go to

Daniel VettoriDaniel Vettori is considered by many as the best left arm spinner in the world in the modern times. This left arm spinner from New Zealand has a unique ability to hold his ground against some of the destructive batsmen. With subtle changes in pace and flight along with a clever arm ball, Vettori is one of the finest bowlers ever in all the formats of the game. Over the years, he has also developed his batting a great way and today counts as one of the most annoying lower order batsmen to the opponents.

Starting his international career as a 17-year-old, Vettori has gone miles in International Cricket. Vettori is probably the most improved cricketers in the world, learning all the time as he went by. Today he is just 30 years of age and yet seems to have been in the fold for a very long time. New Zealand Cricket has rewarded his services by making him the Captain! Vettori here talks about bowlers, bowling and other aspects of the game in this interview:

Who is the best bowler you’ve played against?

If you look in the international circuit there’s Ajantha Mendis from Sri Lanka who seems to be taking the world by storm with his bowling, he is pretty unique in the way he bowls and for me as a fellow spinner it is these guys that I’d look out for and try to learn one or two new things from. He’s going to be one of those guys like Muralitharan who can revolutionize the game and will have people say “I want to bowl like that”. You don’t get many guys in world cricket like that. You think of Warne, Richard Hadlee and Muralitharan and when kids say that they want to start copying you know you’ve made an impact.

But I think Warne is always the best – it’s almost an idol thing for me as well. Always loved watching him bowl and loved the way he played the game. Also Muralitharan and whilst there’s controversy with his action, his ability to do what he does is pretty amazing. Those two guys, and it’s the spin thing for me as well, but it’s hard to go past the two most successful bowlers in the history of the game.

What is it about Warne and how he played the game that you enjoyed?

I think it’s an amazing effort for a spin bowler to come into the game with that attitude and then show that spin can dominate so much – with a physical presence as well as the skill. It’s not just the normal spinner who shies away and bowls a few overs before the new ball or a couple before lunch; he was the main man and it hasn’t happened a lot in cricket where a spin bowler is the focal point of attention. I think that’s what initially drew my attention; you just sit back and admire the skill. There are a lot of balls that he’s bowling that he’s thought up by himself. He’s actually making them happen, making them the most effective weapons in cricket at the time.

Do you think opposition can feel that pressure? It seemed just Warne doing his warm-ups made batsmen play differently. Were batsman ever scared or genuinely didn’t know what to do?

Yeah, I think so. I think that “scared” is probably not quite the right word because the fear factor of being hurt is not there. With a spin bowler it is a mental and a skilful challenge, whereas you flip that over to Brett Lee and you realise that if you miss it it’s going to hurt like hell. With fast bowling it is about managing your thoughts around worst-case scenarios. But that can bring out the best in people. It actually refines their thinking and their thoughts about how not to get hit that can tend to make their technique work a little bit better. Fear in cricket is very important. I would be surprised if there is anyone who wasn’t nervous when they went out to bat and in their bowling. Fear is always around in a cricket game. It is just those guys who tend to manage it or who tend to utilise it for their benefit that succeed. Someone like Mark Richardson, after reading his book, he said it drove him to be the player he was, how scared he was of the ball and how scared he was of failing.

And for yourself?

It’s quite draining being scared all the time. Not good for the heart so I try and manage this. I am always nervous when I bat.

But what is it about those players like Warne that overtly demonstrate self-confidence. For some players they genuinely feel self-confident but for others it seems it is just a performance and more than anything they are trying to talk themselves into it. Take Kevin Pietersen and I’m sure a lot of that is genuine but just putting his pads on he looks like he’s going to invade a couple of countries.

I think if it’s natural it’s a very important part of cricket. I think if it’s false then you will get yourself into trouble. That’s Pietersen to a tee. He’s not putting anything on, that’s just his natural way of going about life. That’s an upbringing thing, a cultural thing. I look at a guy like Brendon (McCullum) when he walks to the crease and I see those same things in him. He’s almost out there before…. as soon as a guy has caught the ball you almost see Brendon taking his mark. That has the same impact in the way he might hit the first ball for four. All that stuff helps individually and as a team but I think if you’ve got eleven of those it could be hard work.

And again, for yourself?

I’m a nervous starter, sometimes a very nervous starter. It takes me a little while to get going but I play my best when I’m not nervous so it’s about trying to get to that stage as quickly as possible. But I always know I’ll have that fear and those nerves at the start of an innings and I also know that I have to overcome this to get to the point where I know I’m playing well.

You don’t have the same attitude to bowling though?

It depends on the situation. Bowling in a game, there are so many things you can walk into. Batting in a game I think is similar in terms of the basics: you take your first 10 balls, your first 18 balls, whereas in bowling you can be confronted with someone who is looking to hit you out of the attack the very first ball or somebody who is blocking all day. But I still think there’s a few nerves when I bowl, making sure that the rhythm is all right and the balls coming out of your hand well. You never want to bowl a double bouncer. It always hangs over a left-arm spinner – the ‘yips’ are going to invade one day. I have got to make sure that no one ever talks about them otherwise I’m sure it’s going to happen to me. It has happened to every other left-arm spinner in the history of the game. I’m next.

So what context is it that you really relish?

I think it’s when you see a situation, and now that I’m captain I see those situations and can act on them. I see a situation where I will make a difference. Then that excitement raises a little bit and I think “Right, this is my time. I’ve got to make it happen”. As captain I can react on that and I think that is one of the best things of being a bowling captain; that you can ride your hunch as long as you want. See that situation and you go with it.

So what about the best batters you’ve seen, or played against?

The best batter for me has always been Rahul Dravid and not because he’s a destructive player. I think the way the game is going now, people tend to rate players who can hit the ball out of the park, but I think with Dravid, he’s always been the hardest guy for me ever to get out. I just feel like he can play me with a matchstick. It all looks a bit easy for him. When I bowl my best ball he dispatches it without raising a sweat and I suppose I’ve always admired that, just his ability to play the game at the right pace and generally the pace is dictated by him. But the flip side of that is guys like Gilchrist who I felt could hit any ball I bowled for six if he wanted to and I’ve had some good battles with him. So there’s that balance between the destructive nature and the guys who are calm and can control an innings.

And anyone else?

Ricky Ponting is another guy. Probably the best balance of those two where he can control an innings but then he can step it up a level as well and say “Right, now’s the time I’m gonna put you out of the park”.

Do you think some players have become particularly good at playing spin?

The development of the batsman’s ability to play spin I think has been dramatic in the time that I’ve played and that’s because every team has at some stage developed a good spinner. If you think you want to be a good international cricketer, you’ve got to be able to play Warne, you’ve got to be able to play Muralitharan, you’ve got to be able to play Harbhajan, and now you’ve got to be able to play guys like Mendis coming through. So if you’re not a good player of spin you get found out. We talk to Braces (John Bracewell, the former New Zealand Coach and former Test Player) a lot about this. When he used to bowl, guys would either block him or sweep him. They wouldn’t do anything else. Now guys have a range of shots. And even the tail-enders are good players of spin and they are also more confident about being aggressive. That ability to play spin has gone up as my career has progressed. I think that’s where spinners have had to become better as well.

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