Daniel Vettori, the 36-year-old former New Zealand captain, has announced his retirement from international cricket after his national side fell just short of a World Cup victory send-off. His last match for the Black Caps came in Sunday’s final defeat at the hands of Australia in Melbourne.
Vettori became New Zealand’s youngest ever Test player at the age of just eighteen when he made his debut against England in Wellington in 1997, taking the wickets of Nasser Hussain and Andrew Caddick in an innings defeat. Eighteen years and 360 more Test scalps later, the Auckland-born Vettori has cemented himself as the most successful slow left-arm bowler in history and is second to Sir Richard Hadlee (431 wickets) on his country’s all-time Test wicket taking list.
As well as his considerable bowling prowess, Vettori matured and proved his worth and talent as a lower-order batsmen in the longer format of the game, amassing 4,531 runs at an average of exactly 30, with a highest score of 140. This effort sits him on a pedestal alongside great all-rounders Sir Ian Botham and Kapil Dev as one of only three men to have scored both 4,000 Test runs and taken 300 Test wickets. An incredible achievement.
His ODI debut against Sri Lanka came just a month after his Test bow, and his total of 297 wickets and 291 appearances are also both Black Caps records. Having captained his national side in all three formats, there is not a lot else that Vettori could have achieved in his successful and lengthy cricketing career.
Although he failed to end on the highest of notes, to be named in the ICC team of the tournament after taking 15 wickets in the World Cup co-hosted on home soil is still a fitting way to bow out of the international arena. His miserly economy rate of 4.04 runs conceded per over is testament to how Vettori has perfected and evolved his bowling over the years with beautifully disguised pace and flight changes.
He told reporters at Auckland airport: “It was my last game for New Zealand, in the final, so it was a lovely way to finish.
“Obviously it would have been great to win, but I’m pretty proud of everyone, the way we’ve gone about things the last six weeks.”
The New Zealand public have said goodbye to one of its treasured cricketing sons having followed his career from boy to man and all that entailed in between. Vettori played the game how he looked; with intelligence, composure and a surety that a captain throwing the ball to or greeting him out to bat would feed off and a nation would find comfort in.
Often overlooked in a spin era dominated by Shane Warne, Muttiah Muralitharan, Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh, whose undoubted qualities were sometimes overshadowed by controversies on and off the pitch, Vettori has gone about his business from day one in a quietly assured manner befitting of the behavioural qualities expected of players of the “gentleman’s game”. He has eked out every last bit of talent given to him and leaves the pitch for the last time a complete all-rounder and spin great, to be held in the same breath as those legends before him, and rightly so.
An irreplaceable master of his art Brendon McCullum, Vettori’s last captain, would say it best: “We’re going to lose one of our all-time great players,” said McCullum. “We’re also going to lose a great bloke from the [team] environment as well so he’s going to be very hard to replace.
“We’ll have a nice celebration for him and we’ll be able to toast the success of his career and his impact on this game. We’ve been lucky to have the privilege of playing with him.”
And we’ve been lucky to have the privilege of watching him.