Daniel Vettori, 36, New Zealand’s most capped Test and ODI player, has announced his retirement from ODI cricket after the World Cup Final. The Kiwis lost the match, and will now have to watch perhaps their most influential modern-day legend walk into the sunset—a few months after making a surprise comeback for his final test against Pakistan in Sharjah. Not many doubted Vettori’s quality and class after he was selected for the World Cup, but there were doubts about his dodgy back and stress fractures that have plagued him ever since he made his international debut at age 18 back in 1997.
It feels like Vettori has been around for ages, and he has, after becoming New Zealand’s youngest Test player in the ’90s.
At one point after Stephen Fleming’s retirement, arguably New Zealand’s lowest phase in international cricket, Vettori was their captain, selector, best batsman and best bowler in both forms of cricket. He has 6 Test centuries to his name, batted at no. 6, trying hard to find a team around him till Ross Taylor took over in 2011 for an unsuccessful stint. Vettori remained in the fold, but was believed to have played his final test in 2012, only to roar back every season in limited overs cricket. His 305 wickets in ODIs have come mostly in the middle overs at an unbelievable economy rate, through guile, dip, accuracy and little spin. In Tests, his 361 wickets is second to Richard Hadlee’s, and he became only the third test all-rounder ever to score over 4000 runs and take over 300 wickets after Kapil Dev and Ian Botham.
He was a crucial cog in the Kiwi wheel during their path to their first ever World Cup final, taking 15 wickets and ending up in the ICC Team of the tournament as the lead spinner. Along with R Ashwin and Imran Tahir, Vettori emerged as a rare spinning option on small grounds in a tournament that favored quicks and batsmen. He will forever be remembered for his casual pluck-out-of-thin-air one-handed catch at the third-man boundary—a crucial moment in the West Indies quarterfinal, where Samuels was dismissed just as he had begun to warm up.
Many will remember ‘Dan The Man’ as a bespectacled bowler whose face just refused to age over the years, despite the stress and weight of an entire nation on his shoulders. The only signs of age remained his creaking body and a stubble—which only made him look like the nicest guy in cricket, a nerd who perhaps chanced upon a sport and became good at it when he’d actually rather be at Princeton or running an IT company.
An era has ended for New Zealand, and right on time, considering the fearless direction McCullum’s new team has taken. Daniel Vettori remained New Zealand’s most reliable all-rounder for 15 years, even though arguably more talented players like Styris, Mills, Anderson, Neesham and others have come, gone and come back to a team that has always had Vettori’s spirit hovering around.
He leaves his team in a far better position than when he entered, and that, in a nutshell, is what any great player would prefer as a final parting gift.