RCB skipper predicts a glorious future for the heir apparent
By Akshay Manwani
Mohali 20 April 2012
Having debuted for New Zealand as an 18-year-old, Daniel Vettori has gone on to bag over 350 Test, and more than 275 ODI, wickets with his orthodox left-arm spin. The bowling superstar’s batting has also undergone a vast improvement – four of his six Test centuries have come in the last four years.
The former NZ skipper’s tryst with the IPL began way back in 2008 when he was signed on by the Delhi Daredevils. He then joined the Royal Challengers Bangalore following the IPL Player Auction 2011, taking over the captaincy from Anil Kumble who switched to a mentoring role. Having taken RCB to two consecutive finals (IPL 2011 and CLT20 2011), Vettori will be hoping to be third-time lucky this IPL season. IPLT20.com managed to catch up with Vettori for an exclusive chat on the tournament, his team and what it is that he likes about India.
How has the IPL evolved since its inception in 2008?
Like anything else, it matures and things get better with age. First of all, the play on the field has got better and better. Teams have started to gel and understand what they need to do to win in T20 games, particularly the overseas players. The Indians know the conditions, but the overseas players are now more aware of all the conditions. That has made a big difference to the standard of play. RCB are often regarded as a team with terrific individual talent but one that falls short as a unit. That could explain the two crucial losses ¬(in the IPL 2011 and CLT20 2011 finals). Do you think that is a fair criticism?
No, because first you have to make two finals. I think anyone can win on the day, but winning consistently over the tournament is the most important thing. We finished first in the round robin last year and then did well in the Champions League [Twenty20 2011]. We were very disappointed not to win either of those competitions, but it’s a one-off game and those things can happen.
Ray Jennings is the coach of your side, Anil Kumble is the mentor while you are the captain. How do you delineate those roles?
There is a normal coach-captain relationship. Ray takes complete control of all the off-the-field scenarios – training, net practices are all the domain of the coach. On the field it is up to me as it is with a normal captain. Anil and myself try to get around the players as much as possible in between games and talk about roles, talk about understanding what you need to do in each game. Because Anil has such respect from all the players, he does that so well. It allows Ray to coach and make sure that everything runs smoothly.
One of India’s biggest cricketing stars to emerge in recent times is Virat Kohli. What do you expect from him in the future?
To succeed at this level, you need to be highly skilled. And Virat is highly skilled. Secondly, he has the confidence and thirdly, he is one of the most competitive players I have played with. When you put that package together, it generally means you are going to be successful. As long as he remains competitive and confident, which I have no doubt he will, he is going to dominate attacks in the IPL and around the world.
What do you make of his captaincy? He stepped in for you during the IPL last year when you were injured.
I think it’s the same [quality that he brings] as a player. He is a confident, competitive guy. Those are great qualities to have as a captain. When your players see that you care so much, you try so hard, it sets an example. That’s what Virat does – not only with his batting, but also with the standard that he sets in the field. When he gets the chance he will captain the team.
Do you exchange notes with Muttiah Muralitharan now that you’re finally on the same team?
Both of us are very different bowlers. Murali is probably one of the most knowledgeable guys that I have met in cricket. He loves the game. When you get guys around cricket who’ve played for so long and still love being involved and talking about it, you can’t help but enjoy it. It’s almost contagious. It’s just nice, I suppose, to play with him as opposed to playing against him, because when you play against him you are pretty nervous having to face him. Now in the nets you can have a bit of fun. Even if you get out, it doesn’t matter.
Your economy-rate in T20 cricket is good – just 6.30. In T20Is, that improves to 5.36. What’s the secret behind your success?
The key to left-arm and right-arm off spin bowling is very simple, but it has to be precise. While [the batsman] may know what is coming, if you can still put the ball in the right areas, at a different pace, at a different trajectory, time and time again, you can confuse the batsman and keep him off what he is trying to do.
So do you look to flight the ball more or bowl a lot flatter in this format?
It just depends on the situation. If you’ve just got a wicket, then maybe you might flight a few balls up. If you are trying to be defensive then your trajectory is a lot flatter because you look to eliminate the sixes and fours and only give away singles. And then it varies from batsman to batsman. Because I’ve played for such a long time, I have an understanding of what batsmen are trying to do and I try to counter that all the time.
Do you predict a situation where either Jennings or you might have to go up to Chris Gayle and ask him to curb his natural, blustery game? Can Gayle be made to play a more circumspect innings?
I think Chris would respond to it, but I don’t think we would ever ask him. That’s why he has been so successful and so consistent. He is trained to play that way. It’s a skill. It’s not reckless; it’s not him taking chances. It’s just his natural game. And that’s the best thing about players like Gayle, Virat and AB de Villiers. They play their natural game and that’s when they are at their best. You have achieved so much in your cricketing career. How high would you rate an IPL title on your list of accomplishments?
I think being captain [of the side], it would be a great achievement. Anytime you can be involved with the team as a captain and lift the trophy is what you live for.
You’ve visited India on numerous occasions with the New Zealand national side and as part of the IPL. Leaving aside cricket, what do you like most about the country?
India is so different from New Zealand. It’s difficult to explain to people back home the style of life and the number of people as compared to New Zealand. Just the contrast is what everyone enjoys. New Zealand has four million people and India has got a billion, so it is an eye-opener for a lot of guys coming here for the first time. But once you acclimatise, you start to enjoy it. And I think New Zealanders and Indians are very similar, very humble and have an ability to get along with just about anyone.