The Professor of Cricket: Daniel Vettori

The Black Caps recently held a promotional media event in Auckland to launch the HRV Cup this year and I had the pleasure of meeting some of them and holding interviews for Pakpassion. Here I bring to you the first in the series, a chat with Daniel Vettori on his career as a player, the nuances of captaincy, spin bowling and his thoughts on N.Z Cricket in general.

Vettori one of the sharpest Cricketing brains going around

How much of your style of captaincy and the way you run the team did you take from Stephen Fleming?

Probably hundred percent of it I would say. He was in charge of the side through out most of my career, I think except for four test matches under Lee Germon and Dion Nash my entire career was based under him.  So he was the major influence on my style of captaincy and I learnt so much from him. Particularly the trait of remaining as calm as possible out in the middle, because I think people feed of that and if you tend to be irrational or up or down emotionally it becomes tough for your side to follow you.

Who were your heroes growing up as a kid?

Sir Richard definitely, watching him bowl in the Brisbane Test where he took nine wickets and just seeing him bowl so well in general….Steve Waugh I think even as a young guy growing up I liked watching him play. It changes a bit when you start playing guys who were your idols when you were young but those two when I was growing up.

What are the traits, in your opinion, young captains need to develop to be successful at leading?

I think the most important thing is developing a rapport with your players. They follow you because of your performance and more importantly the way you lead the side. I think captains generally are good players, or you would not be put in a position of that much responsibility so your performance tends to take care of itself if you are mentally strong and don’t let the pressures that come with the job get to you. So it is developing an understanding and empathy of the way your players work that is key to the job.

How much of it is knowing the tactics of the game?

Well I think tactics come to you as the game unfolds. It is difficult to go out on the park with a rigid plan in mind because the game can change so quickly. So you have to be adaptable, going in with little ideas and allowing yourself room to change. Also knowing your players gives you the ability to know what you can get out of them and what each of them can provide you in certain situations.

 Can you walk me through the World Cup Quarter Final game against S.A? Any special instance that turned it for you and you think made it possible for you to win the game?

 You are always thinking you are going to do something but it hardly ever goes according to plan. I think we put a total on the board that we thought was competitive, and the way Jesse and Ross played gave us that opportunity but it was still going to be very tough from there. We probably never believed till we ran De Villiers out because he is such a fine player and because of how well he has done for them in the past in similar situations, so that is some thing that galvanized the team and lead us on.

And Guptill’s fielding effort…..?

He was amazing in the field, but that is some thing you count on as there are very few guys who can change the course of a game through their fielding and we are lucky to have him.

N.Z Captains tend to be great improvisers and be the most innovative Captains of their time, but when it comes to batting and bowling there is a feeling the play is too by the book. Do you think there is a sense of over coaching at the grass root level?

 No I don’t think that’s generally true. I think there are not that many great coaches floating around to begin with and the guys growing up play the game for the love of the sport and to be in the company of others who enjoy the game as much as they do. And that’s the most important part of it, to love the sport; the coaching bit only comes in later when it becomes more of a necessity.


N.Z Cricket manages to perform consistently, especially at the World Stage but lacks that final push on most occasions. You think there is a reason for that?

 There are different ways you can look at that. I personally choose to admire how much N.Z Cricket has been able to achieve over the years representing a population of only four million compared to say your Indias (with a billion) and Pakistans (with 180 million). You can step back and be proud of what we have achieved especially in World Cup tournaments over the last 30 years. Of course at the same time there is a huge expectation with in the country and people who follow the game to do better and I think creating a balance between those two is the hardest bit.

Test Cricket or T20?

 I love Test Cricket, it is the game I grew up on and love playing and being involved in. The decision I made to stick to Test Cricket is one of the best ones I made and will stick with that as long as I can. Hopefully Test Cricket remains the integral part of the Cricketing landscape.

You became quite a handy lower middle order bat late in your career? How did you manage that transformation ?

 I wasn’t happy with my performance and what I was delivering as a batsman and knew I could do much better. Spent a lot of time and effort with Ross the assistant coach of the team a while back and Stephen Fleming, both of us being tall left handers I tried to take a leaf out of his book. But most of all it was the mental application. Being an aggressive batsman and dragging that out to as long as possible was the biggest switch in my opinion.

Growing up as a spinner who did you aspire to….

 John Bracewell when I was really young. I was a medium pacer till I was fifteen so I guess watching spinners wasn’t top of my priority list. Then Shane Warne, I think any spinner my age would have aspired to him growing up.

You are famous for the drift you get and your arm ball? Is that something that comes naturally or something you have developed over the years working hard on it?

I would say reasonably naturally. I think the drift particularly that’s just my action and the way I release the ball. And the arm ball depends on the conditions on the day, if it’s swinging it’s fine and if it’s not then it becomes difficult at times…hopefully it is natural because I think most things that work well for players are those that come naturally to them.

You used to be a bigger turner of the ball. But later on your bowling depended much more on flight variation, deceiving and out thinking the batsmen. Was that a concentrated shift?

No I don’t think I was ever really a big turner of the ball. I think it’s a popular myth and misconception that has gained popularity due to the game against Australia where I took twelve wickets on a spinning wicket at Eden Park. That was just an excellent track for a spin bowler to bowl on, especially considering now as the pitches are not conducive for spin bowling in N.Z at all, short boundaries add to the misery and it’s a lot of hard work. I have always been an accurate bowler who tries to deceive batsmen with variations in pace and bounce and that’s just the way I’ve been through out my career.

You come of as some one who is a great student of the game. Is that true?

 I love the game and I enjoy following it. Maybe not a big reader of Cricket Literature but I know the game. Have a sense of the records and the great people who have played the game before us and appreciate the history of the game. And also know that there are many more greats who will follow in our footsteps and respect that sense of occasion immensely.

As a Captain what would be top of your wish list a tear away great fast bowler or a great genuine attacking opener?

I think you want to be greedy and want to have it all, but N.Z haven’t generally had a rich history of opening batsman with averages in fifties like say Austrlia or India so that’s some thing that’s always a draw. It’s hard to pick one and fortunately I am not Captain any more so I don’t have to worry about it.

If you had to do a brutal evaluation of your captaincy and pick out what you did best and what some of the regrets were, what would they be?

It’s hard to know I think because it is what it is in a lot of ways and you learn to deal with it. As a bowling captain I really enjoyed working with the bowlers and building a good rapport with the team in general, that’s some thing I did well and really enjoyed. In terms of regrets I think you will always be judged by your success in the long run and my win/loss ratio is not that great especially in tests so that is some thing I would have loved to improve because in the end that’s what people remember.

Some one who got on your nerve a lot?

I don’t know about getting on my nerve but I can tell you who was the hardest guy to bowl to was. Rahul Dravid is the best player of spin that I have come across, was always difficult to bowl to him and guys like Gichrist who can hit you out of the park at any time, it’s not getting on your nerve but definitely hard work.

Your favorite Pakistani Cricketer?

 Saqlain Mushtaq for sure, I used to love watching him bowl. Got to work with him over the last couple of years when he came over and helped the team. Not only from a bowling perspective but batting as well. He is a lovely man who imparted a lot of knowledge on us. Not only the way he played the game and how innovative and successful he was as a spin bowler but him as a person as well.

World Cup in three and a half year’s time in N.Z, you reckon you will be there for a last Hoorah!

Would definitely love to. I remember the 1992 World Cup as one of the great moments in the history of N.Z Sport and how I was swept up in it. The team did really well in the tournament as well and reached the semi-finals and I would love to be a part of something similar.

Originally for


6 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Tarika on November 11, 2011 at 4:37 am

    This is amazing! Awesome, thoughtful questions im so proud of you!


  2. […] is just a snippet of what Dan Vettori had to say in this excellent interview conducted by Shoaib Naveed. I recommend reading the interview in its entirety: Shoaib manages to fit […]


  3. Posted by Ammi on November 11, 2011 at 7:35 am

    wha sahab wha!


  4. Posted by Navaneethan on November 11, 2011 at 1:53 pm

    Awesome interview, Shoaib! Really enjoyed it – good questions and Vettori seems like a really thoughtful, interesting guy.


  5. Posted by Ankit on November 11, 2011 at 6:19 pm

    Excellent work dude, can’t wait for the next one!


  6. What a wonderful interview. Daniel has been a cricket hero of mine for a number of years now and after reading this interview it makes me realise why I feel that way. He is such a gentle caring person with such a great love of the game. I don’t know another cricket captain who would have the respect of his players, the knowledge of the game , and the admiration of his country, as he does. The score books will never tell the real story.


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