In which your ‘heroes’ Aaron and Duncan have a shallow and meaningless about the Storm, talk down NZ’s Twenty20 chances and up Stephen Fleming as a future coach before extolling the virtues of history in a sports club, and promotion/relegation with particular reference to the newly promoted Nottingham Forest. Kill some time with us.
Tag Archives: Daniel Vettori
I interviewed the current New Zealand Cricket captain Dan Vettori late last year for my employer, Barkers Men’s Clothing (you can read the better, fancier feature at the Barkers blog), and thought I’d post the transcript of the interview for your reading pleasure. Bear in mind that the interview was conducted four months ago, so there was still hope for the season at the time. Or that faint patina of hope that all New Zealand Cricket fans know and ‘love’.
That soon faded. But the thrill of interviewing Vettori never will. He was an exceptionally impressive fellow, well-spoken, thoughtful, opinionated… Everything you’d like a sportsman to be, but so rarely encounter. I happened to be reading Michael Lewis’ excellent sabermetrics tribute Moneyball at the time, and self-consciously had it lying on the table between us when he came down. I figured it was as good a way as any to see how curious he was. I figure most All Blacks don’t even look at the book. Dan Vettori not only looked at it, he made keen observations about its content (tragically before I switched my dictaphone on) and had, in fact read it twice, the second time after he had made a concerted effort to appreciate the intricacies of baseball so as to see what that new knowledge altered in terms of his appreciation for the book.
Which is just great. We’ve now had two straight captains who are serious students of the game – but not just the game they happen to excel at, but games in general. For a side like the Black Caps, cursed by population and temperament to never have the resources our opposition has at their beck and call, this attribute is incredibly important. God knows where we’d be without his influence. Anyway, without further rumination, here is the transcript of our conversation,
If you follow cricket on the internet, you’ll be familiar with those strange, pitiable google ads that Buzz Bats run asking, somewhat plaintively, ‘Do you want a bat like Grant Elliott’s?’
The question is ridiculous on so many levels it’s difficult to know where to start. How about the fact that he’s 30 years old, but only made his Black Cap debut last year? Or that he moved to New Zealand only as a second choice after his career looked stalled in the cricket powerhouse of South Africa? Or that he has a ‘dodgy allrounder’ (bowling average minus batting average) number in first class cricket of 7.4?
He’s also not the most handsome or demonstrative guy on the field, with thin. pinched looks and a detached expression which gels with his mostly mild-mannered strokeplay. In a country which is used to all-rounders who make the pulse race and blood boil (both Cairnses, Oram, Hadlee, plus that interminable Harris/Latham/Larsen/Styris list) he is something of a shrinking violet.
But this morning he played an innings which ran totally against the New Zealand archetype. He scored 75 off 103 balls, but that was skewed mightily by the powerplay which New Zealand rode to victory. His half century came off 90 balls, and he played the sheet anchor role to perfection, preventing Pakistan from sinking their teeth into a lower order which averaged between 10 and 20, and had a total of six ODI half centuries between them (including Elliott himself).
So New Zealand finds itself in the final of the ICC trophy (read Paul Holden’s great history of our form at the tournament here) for the second time, after that incandescent Cairns-powered victory in 2001, against an Australian side who are, if not ripe for the picking, certainly a more approachable proposition than at any other point in the last 20 years. We largely have Grant ‘the wallflower’ Elliott to thank for our appearance.Because the rest of the batting line-up hardly covered themselves in glory.
McCullum did his best McCullum expression by hitting a belligerent 17 as he attempts to cement his reputation as the most over-rated player in the world game. Redmond too built on his first class journeyman brand, while Taylor played a fine innings, including one breathtaking six, before getting out playing one of the more foolish shots the man’s ever attempted, a late cut off a straight off-stumper from Afridi. It was Vettori and Elliott’s exquisitely paced century partnership which choked the life out of Pakistan, despite the best efforts of their incredible 17-year-old wunderkid Mohammad Aamer.
The innings was all the more enjoyable for the way it flouted New Zealand convention. Contrary to popular belief we do win ODIs far more frequently than we have any right to, given our resources. Beating a team like Pakistan, who fielded sloppily, bowled far too many wides and no balls, had muddled field placements and poor discipline is that much more satisfying when you know that man-for-man we are inferior by some margin. But we normally beat teams by scrapping for every inch, and lurching across the line with some ungainly squirt for four.
Instead we paced it beautifully, and even while the commentary team were talking about how we were digging a hole as we slipped gently past a run a ball required, there was never the slightest doubt from around 160 on that we would make it comfortably. It was almost unnerving to see such a placid chase, without the lunacy and pain which normally characterises our cricket. You can imagine Craig MacMillan (who I could’ve sworn I heard Telfer demanding be recalled during the week) shaking his head in disgust at the composure and assurance on display.
It was a beautiful thing. And Elliott, with his trusty Buzz Bat, is the reason why. Google ads work, for the most part, on a cost-per-click basis. Impressions (page views) generally count for zilch. So if you word your advertisement right you can be seen by hundreds of thousands of eyes without ever being clicked (and therefore billed). ‘Do you want a bat like Grant Elliott?’ might be the most unclickable ad in history, a combination of an unknown manufacturer and unglamourous player becoming online lead.
His innings today, crucial as it was, is unlikely to change that. Even his recent purple patch (his four wickets against England earned him man of the match) seems unlikely to get his poster on the walls of New Zealand’s cricketing youth. But he is quietly becoming an essential cog in our side, the quiet success story to his predecessor Oram’s loud, groaning failures, and should we find a way to defeat Australia on Monday you can bet that Elliott will have played a vital role.
I intended to write this post on September 12, when it was exactly two years since Daniel Vettori assumed the test captaincy of the Black Caps. Unfortunately a very good friend’s 30th birthday party was on September 11th, which proved catastrophic to my ability to get this done (though I did manage to drive to Hamilton and watch the All Blacks lose live in person for the first time this decade, completing a trifecta First Four* of live losses which involved Auckland Grammar, The Warriors and the Auckland NPC team – I think the latter are just called ‘Auckland’, which might be amazing or rubbish, I can’t tell at this point).
Anyway, I’d been planning this post for a while is what I’m trying to say, and now I’m sitting here with a glass of The Macallan (pictured) and I’m gonna write it, goddamn it. Because, I guess, I feel cheated. I came of age as a test cricket fan later than most, in the late ’90s to early ’00s, when, astoundingly, we had a team worth shouting about. I think it began with that monumental series win in England, when Dion Nash became the first cricketer to take 10 wickets and score a 50 in the same match at Lords. It might be an obscure and slightly weird record, but it’s ours, you know?
In that era we beat India at home, lost narrowly to South Africa at home and India away, smashed the Windies at home, tied a series with Pakistan on more than one occasion, drew with England at home and India, Australia and Sri Lanka away… There are a few series I’ve ignored in there, mostly in South Africa and Australia. But for this incredible six or seven year period, we became a competitive test side. And I was in love.
Because, well, little old New Zealand was beating up – or at least drawing up – on these impossibly imposing foes! How did it happen? I picked one team at random (test no. 1573), thinking it’d be a typical New Zealand grab bag of trash’n’treasure, a few gems and some stinkers – that fleamarket vibe which is (mostly) our cricketing lot. Instead I saw this:
I might be a bit drunk, but that is a fantastic cricket team. Sure Vincent (test av. 34) and Sinclair (test av. 32) are a bit iffy. But the rest is very high quality. When I say high quality, though, there’s the implied silent caveat ‘by New Zealand standards’. Were such a side to turn out for Australia you’d say awful. Maybe four of those guys (Bond, Cairns, Vettori and Richardson?) would make their very poor current side. And they’d be contentious. But for New Zealand? That’s one of the all time ten best sides we’ve ever fielded, no question
All of which is an extremely long-winded way of introducing the matter at hand. In the last two years New Zealand has played 21 test matches. I began to wax nostalgic about how much more test cricket we played back in the day, but then checked the total we played in 1998 and 1999, and it was 20. So we haven’t played a bunch of test cricket in a long time. What has changed is how well we’ve played it. We won eight of those 20 matches a decade ago, and drew seven, while losing only five.
The last two years? four wins, six draws and ELEVEN losses. We have slipped, and terribly. Test cricket, which at the time seemed so vital, now seems vaguely quaint (at least in terms of the esteem with which it’s held this country). And to my mind, most of that can be put down to that curmudgeonly philistine John Bracewell’s emphasis on the now-irrelevant (seriously, they will not play any 50 over cricket in English county cricket next year) ODI form of the game. He was utterly disinterested in test cricket, and it showed through brutally in our performances under his ruinous reign. But ultimately the players have to take some of the blame.
Here, then, is the complete list of the batting statistics of those who have dressed in white and gone out to bat for New Zealand under the captaincy of Daniel Vettori. I should warn in advance, it ain’t pretty.
In order of averages, with the figures running matches/total runs scored/average since Sept 07:
1. Jesse Ryder 11/898/49.9
2. Stephen Fleming 7/552/46.1
3. Daniel Vettori 21/1242/42.8
4. Ross Taylor 19/1343/39.5
5. Daniel Flynn 13/627/33
6. Brendon McCullum 21/1126/31.3
7. Jacob Oram 11/559/31.1
8. Matthew Bell 5/245/30.6
9. Tim MacIntosh 7/338/28.2
10. Martin Guptill 5/241/26.8
11. Jamie How 13/641/25.6
12. Aaron Redmond 7/299/23
13. Craig Cumming 4/114/22.8
14. Peter Fulton 3/87/21.8
15. James Franklin 5/139/19.9
16. Lou Vincent 1/37/18.5
17. Tim Southee 5/127/18.4
18. Matthew Sinclair 5/147/18.3
19. Scott Styris 2/59/14.8
20. Gareth Hopkins 1/27/13.5
21. Jeetan Patel 8/104/10.4
22. Grant Elliott 3/27/6.8
23. Iain O’Brien 17/142/17.5
24. Mark Gillespie 3/25/6.3
25. Michael Papps 2/ 17/4.3
26. Chris Martin 17/30.2.5
27. Shane Bond 1/1/1
So many amazing stats, right? My favourite is at the bottom: Shane Bond covertly sending the emergency number to us with his last test before our monstrous slump. You got to admire his dedication to the gag. But Papps above him? Here’s a tip: If you don’t get more runs in four innings than Chris Martin gets in his entire career, you’re shit at batting. Memo to the following: Grant Elliott; Matthew Sinclair; Peter Fulton; Craig Cumming; Aaron Redmond; Jamie How; Martin Guptill – if you’re never selected for New Zealand again, this list should tell you why.
More depressingly, we’ve had no batsmen average over 50 (though Jesse did until his last innings prior to this list) and only four over 35, while only two batsmen (one of whom is a bowler) have accumulated more than 1,000 runs in the period. In two years, 27 cricketers have worn white for New Zealand, and only eight have come out of the experience with an average of over 30! One of those scraping into that category is Brendon McCullum, who must be the most overrated cricketer in the world.
These guys are batting on infinitely superior home wickets than those our Black Caps of the late ’90s strode out on, but continue to fail to deliver runs of any real consequence. Seriously, I went to ‘the toilet’ just now and read about a dude who’s in Australian Idol and has lost more than the weight of John Afoa since he was a teenager!
Dude’s a lot more inspiring than anything we’ve conjured up in the last couple of years. When I was watching Monty’s incredible test saving innings against Australia a few months back it made me recall the legendary heroics of Greatbatch against Australia in 1989. Greatbatch gained nothing from the feat. He just didn’t want to get out, so dug in and drove them wild. Outside of Dan I don’t see a single guy in the current side with that kind of temperament. McCullum’s latest attempt to visit untold indignities upon the game is only the most recent sign that the current crop lack the spine of the one just passed.
Because, for all the ludicrousness of the situation, Monty saved that game. And the draw he procured ultimately handed the Ashes to England. When the histories are written they might point to the heroics of Broad, Trott, Strauss or Flintoff in the test wins as pivotal moments. But in truth it all came down to a grinning non-batsman who decided that he wouldn’t willingly concede his wicket. On that small molehill a mountain was built. That’s what sport is – a thousand tiny actions becoming something far greater.
So it seems a terrible shame that the current Black Caps, with a few notable exceptions (I’ll name them: Vettori, Martin, Ryder and Taylor) seem to take such a narrow view of the game that they don’t see the monumental triumphs that occasionally await those who doggedly resist the tide.
– Duncan Greive
* I looked this up after realising I had heard of a Trifecta and a Quinella, but not a quad____. Turns out it’s called a ‘first four‘. That’s maybe the biggest letdown I’ve ever had in googling, which includes looking for Scarlett Johansson’s boobs in The Killing Game at Bill Simmon’s behest.
Martin Guptil’s head hung disconsolately after his dismissal in this morning’s Twenty20, but it was Jacob Oram who should be ashamed of himself. The way The Giant meekly gave up his wicket was shameful, and you have to think his limp 12 ball 7 will be his last innings as a Black Cap.
Oram’s been a mercurial figure his whole career. For starters, a guy who’s 6’7″ should be bowling at better than military medium. When you think of tall cricketers from years gone by, the likes of Courtney Walsh and Curtly Ambrose, you think of intimidation, of bouncers which would decapitate a batsman if the blinked at the wrong time, of brutal, unswerving pace.
Oram somehow manages to bowl at 125-130 and be constantly suffering from a stress fracture or strain. How does he sustain those injuries? My grandmother is in her late 70s and not in the best shape, but I’m certain she could throw down an over or two at that pace without exacerpating anything. Throughout his career he’s been a containment bowler, pretty much interchangeable with Scott Styris, who at least has a hideous face to give him some cult appeal.
The saving grace has been his frequently savage batting. But as he last hit a half century for us over a year ago, so that’s been well and truly gone for a while now. I feel like his presence in the dressing room must be more of a hindrance now, this old, once-great war-horse creaking around, a shadow of his former potency, but refusing to admit defeat.
Instead the Black Caps wheel him out time and again with ever-fainter flickers of hope, and he gets no wickets for not too many runs, and uses 10% of our balls to score 4% of our required runs, and turns twos into singles, whic a fitter, faster, younger cricketer mightn’t have. And then we see sprightly, vibrant guys like Guptil destroyed by losing their wicket, when the only reason they’re out is because Jake couldn’t hit runs or gallop between wickets like he used to.
The team is right now in a state of flux. We have too many new cricketers (N McCullum, McGlashan, Redmond) who can’t be relied upon, and too many old nags (Oram, Styris – who also probably needs to make way) who are similarly unreliable. So the new kids who make runs (Taylor, Guptil, Ryder) and the old hands who’ve still got it (B McCullum, Vettori, Mills) have to carry far more of the burden than they’re physically capable of.
And we’re losing. By large margins. And if we’re going to lose by large margins, surely it’s better to be doing so with fresh blood in there than yesterday’s men? A young team which solidifies and learns together can end up surprising you, can gel as a unit and lift beyond its component parts. Right now, with Oram dreadfully out of form, and looking utterly disinterested, we’re breaking the young guys’ hearts and spirits.
Plus, as you can see below, Oram’s gotten a bit fat:
This is the wicket’s view of him on its way down, and it caught a glimpse of an uncomfortable truth: our once fit and sexy allrounder has packed on the pounds. See that line along the middle of his buttock? That’s not musculature. That’s where his Y fronts are cutting into his arse-flesh, trying and failing to contain the jelly within.
I know there have been heaps of great fat allrounders in the past – Beefy Botham, Fattie Lehman, even Jayasuria’s not short of supplies for the winter. But Oram’s not built like that, and has only gained weight because he doesn’t care about winning anymore.
So it’s time to send him to the glue factory, we’ll make cents in the dollar, but he’ll be off our hand, and we can bring in a fresh generation of headcase allrounders to disappoint and occasionally thrill us.