Vettori not sure how long body can hold up

MARK GEENTY
Last updated 05:00 25/05/2013
Daniel Vettori
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SCRATCHED: Daniel Vettori pulls out of the second test against England at Leeds, leaving him on 111 tests for New Zealand, the same as Stephen Fleming.

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It was difficult not to see the significance in the number 111 as Daniel Vettori took the sensible option at Headingley, a cloud remaining over his test-playing future.

The former skipper and master spinner was poised to overtake Stephen Fleming for a record 112th test for New Zealand, against England. Instead, he told coach Mike Hesson and captain Brendon McCullum less than 24 hours out that he wasn't confident of lasting five days and feared letting the team down if selected.

It's now conceivable Vettori will remain 111 not out in test cricket and see out his international career in the limited-overs game.

And with his obvious successor, Bruce Martin, injured after struggling in his last two tests, it leaves a gaping hole in New Zealand's already-thin test spinning stocks.

Vettori, 34, played his most recent test against West Indies in July. Since then he has played five Twenty20 internationals and struggled with various ailments, notably an Achilles tendon problem that took six months to get right.

A huge bowling workload that began when he was thrown the ball as an 18-year-old against England in 1997 has hit home. Vettori has been open for some time about his rickety body and uncertainty about his playing future in the longer formats.

McCullum said it was a mark of the man that he answered the mercy call to Leeds this week. But a serious chat about Vettori's playing future was on the cards soon. New Zealand's next test series isn't until Bangladesh in October before the inbound tours by West Indies and India.

"It's something we need to probably discuss down the track. It's going to be a rolling decision or conversation we have with Dan about what he needs to prioritise, with where he's at in his career, and how many overs he's got under his belt," McCullum said.

"It'd be nice to think he can play every game in all three forms but that's also not realistic.

"So we need to continue those conversations. I certainly see a place for him in the team.

"It'd be silly to sweep away all those test matches and close to 400 wickets and six centuries of experience."

Initially, Vettori retired from ODI and T20 international cricket after stepping down from the captaincy after the 2011 World Cup. His decision to be a test specialist and play the Indian Premier League and Australian Big Bash, has almost come full circle after he returned for the World T20 in September, then will play his first ODI in over two years if he's passed fit for Lord's next Friday.

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Shorter formats are much easier on the body and the 2015 World Cup on home soil was long Vettori's targeted swansong.

While New Zealand bowling coach Shane Bond has plenty of pace options at his disposal, it's not rocket science to work out the concern at New Zealand Cricket over the country's spin stocks.

Martin bowled poorly at Eden Park and Lord's after an excellent start to his test career in Dunedin and Wellington. Jeetan Patel is still taking bags of wickets for Warwickshire but couldn't nail his spot in an extended run in 2012, then his batting fell apart.

Legpsinners Tarun Nethula and Todd Astle have been tried and cast aside, the latter after a more-than-serviceable test debut in Sri Lanka in November, with bat and ball. Both are seen as not able to tie up an end.

Northern Districts leg-spinner Ish Sodhi is the one to watch. He missed his big chance to play for New Zealand A against England because of injury and the hierarchy will hope he can return for a mooted New Zealand A tour of India in September.

Most cricket tests for New Zealand:

111: Daniel Vettori (1997-present) 111: Stephen Fleming (1994-2008) 86: Richard Hadlee (1973-90) 82: John Wright (1978-93) 81: Nathan Astle (1996-2006) (Note: Vettori also played one test for a World XI which was given official status by the International Cricket Council)

- The Dominion Post

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