Sporting chance in the short game

It was warming to see Daniel Vettori figuring in the annual International Cricket Council awards the other day.

Vettori, 33, won the Spirit of Cricket Award for his actions in a test in Bulawayo last November.

Zimbabwe batsman Regis Chakabva was run out after a mix-up that occurred when Vettori, following through, impeded the batsmen. The incident happened at a vital time and Vettori's decision not to appeal when he could have done so spoke volumes for his sportsmanship. Sadly, his decision contrasted starkly with what goes on elsewhere in big cricket these days.

I suppose we'd rather he won the cricketer of the year gong but the sportsmanship award is not to be sneezed at.

Vettori is one of few international players to wear spectacles. To me, it's a sign of his “normality”.

He looks, acts and speaks like the bloke next door.

In an era when many New Zealand cricketers have been carried away with their own publicity, he has kept his feet on the ground admirably.

Vettori's award has turned my mind towards his international future. He's in a strange position.

There's no doubt he's had a magnificent career but where does he go from here?

In test cricket he has played the most matches by a New Zealander - 112 - and captured 360 test wickets, second in the New Zealand list behind Richard Hadlee's 431.

He has also scored 4516 test runs, including six centuries, at an average of 30.1, a better record than the likes of Jeff Crowe and Ken Rutherford.

In fact, he is one of only eight test players to have scored 3000 runs and taken 300 wickets, alongside such illustrious names as Kapil Dev, Ian Botham and Imran Khan.

Vettori “retired” from international one-day and Twenty20 cricket last year to focus on test cricket.

It seems a mad decision to me.

He is of questionable value in test cricket these days.

He hardly spins the ball, relying purely on changes of flight and direction. Therefore, even on spinner-friendly pitches, he can't bowl out teams and lead his side to victory.

Of course, he's a handy lower-order batsman but really he should be played only as a second spinner, if at all.

It once seemed a given that he would pass Hadlee's great record for test wickets but that's not certain any more, because Vettori is really struggling for test wickets.

On the other hand, he is a notoriously tight bowler in limited-overs cricket, with an economy rate of 4.1 runs an over in one-day internationals and 5.5 in Twenty20 - both magnificent statistics.

It's that form of cricket that he should be pointing his efforts towards.

Despite his “retirement”, I note he has continued to play Indian Premier League and Big Bash cricket (fair enough, too - a player should earn the big dollars when he can), and now he's turned up to help out New Zealand at the Twenty20 World Cup.

Perhaps Vettori needs to rethink his career and call it quits in test cricket.

He should ponder a return fulltime to the limited-overs game, where he is among the best in the world, instead of limping along as no more than a mediocre test player these days.

The Marlborough Express