Posts Tagged Daniel Vettori

Toeless White Mongol’s Fantastic Incredible Adventure

Martin Guptill is a man who demands nicknames. This would be true even if he weren’t a sportsman existing in an environment where everyone must be referred to by nickname (even if, as with England a lot of the time, said nickname is pretty much just the player’s actual name with a ‘y’ tacked on the end.) For one thing, there’s his unusual last name; for another, the fact that the man has only 7 toes. My old nickname for him, therefore, was ‘Guppy Two-toes’ – which, if not exactly supremely imaginative, was at least a hell of a lot more so than ‘Cooky,’ ‘Belly,’ ‘Straussy’ and the rest of them, as if the England team were made up entirely of cutesy singing dwarves.

That is a nickname of the past, from a time when the New Zealand team – and especially their batting lineup – were either plucky underdogs who never quite made it happen for themselves, or a straight-up punchline. Their bowlers were mostly immune from the criticism, on account of not sucking at their own jobs and regularly picking up the slack after each inevitable batting collapse. Practically every set of photographs taken of Daniel Vettori from that time has a couple showing him, jaw set and brow furrowed under his helmet, padded up and striding out with an air of angry resignation to bail his team out of trouble by batting for a couple of hours (in a style apparently learned from a coaching manual printed by Monty Python’s Ministry of Silly Walks).

But things, it seems, are different now with New Zealand.  Their Atlas, Vettori, plays only Tests now, and their team lineup is suddenly bristling with fresh-faced players not old enough to know what audio cassettes are. But it’s working for them. Zimbabwe might not have been the most challenging of opponents (though they have the capacity to be much tougher than they were during this last series), but New Zealand demolished them, over and over again, at every venue and in every format.  To my obvious delight, one of the main architects of New Zealand’s dominance was none other than Chris Martin, 37 years of age and in the bowling form of his life, perhaps invigorated by reducing Phil Hughes to a bloody smear on the ground in the Australia series.  This may in some part explain why one of the search phrases used to find this blog recently was “cricket the back of Chris Martin’s head,” but that’s something I don’t really want to think too much about except to assume that someone out there has a thing for graceful bald men who can swing a cricket ball, which is fair enough.

The other standout Kiwi was, of course, Guptill. He’s always been a superb fielder, so much so that he manages to stand out in a side that is primarily known for being a uniformly excellent fielding unit. He was the third part of the Hughes b. Martin equation in addition to flinging himself all over the place taking catches and stopping runs, and when he wasn’t doing that he was batting like he’s never batted before. He’s showed flashes of this ability in the past, but never so consistently, and now he resembles a man who has ‘Eye of the Tiger’ playing constantly in his head and has entrenched himself so deeply into The Zone that he probably cuts his food and puts on pants with exactly the same intensity and optimal use of technique. It showed clearly in today’s T20, the one that kicked off the start of the South Africa tour (a.k.a. the real test of the new-and-improved-now-with-40%-more-BADASS New Zealand side). After a spectacular runout of Hashim Amla that ended with both players and several stumps tangled up in a heap on the pitch and had everyone and their grandmother instantly referencing the legendary Jonty Rhodes moment, he then proceeded to carry his bat through the New Zealand innings and score most of the runs – except the winning ones, which he graciously left to James Franklin. The man seems unstoppable.

However, he is also possessed of facial hair and bone structure that, especially when he’s wearing a helmet, makes him look uncannily like a less-Asiatic Ghenghis Khan. It’s actually distracting. Yet, it might just be the source of all his powers, and so should be accorded due respect. Thus, his new nickname will now be the Toeless White Mongol. It’s not short and snappy, like good nicknames should ideally be, but I think it’s the name he’s earned. Go forth, TWM, and conquer.

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Groundhog Day

Yes, it’s been a while since the last post. I’m actually kind of wondering if anyone will actually read this, which is sort of liberating. I could probably talk about anything. Movies, recreational drugs, quantum physics (IT’S THE STRINGS! DAMN YOU, FEYNMAN!) the possibilities are limitless.

The only reason I would have to do that, instead of talking about cricket, the game I love and adore and which is the hallowed pursuit of noblemen and kings, is that NEW ZEALAND ARE FUCKING LOSING THE PLOT AGAIN.

Ahem.

I always swore I’d never be one of those awful people that does nothing but hurl abuse at their chosen team when the chips are down, but, really, New Zealand? You bowled Australia out for 231 and still managed to collapse? It’s Daniel Vettori’s 100th Test, but apparently a dream Day 1 is all he’s allowed on such an august occasion, before it’s back to the usual business of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

It’s always the spinners, too. I’m currently in Bangalore, and everywhere there are large billboards with Rahul Dravid’s face staring down, practically ordering us to follow the Royal Challenge, as the BRC’s IPL campaign is apparently now called. Anil Kumble is on a few as well, and as happy as it makes me to see him get some glory after all those years of being the overlooked stalwart, it’s an equally sharp reminder of how good he is and was, if we’d only been allowed to see it. I’m reading John Wright’s Indian Summers, which I highly recommend, incidentally, and in it he reiterates what the rest of us have known for a long time: that Kumble was underused and underrated at what should have been his peak years. Vettori certainly doesn’t have the problem of being underused – if they used him any more they’d probably actually physically break him – but he’s never allowed to be as effective as he should be as a spinner, being brought on ludicrously early after the quicks have cocked up the job with the new ball, and then inevitably trudging out again to bat the team out of trouble at number 6 or 8. New Zealand have done their best to wring as much as they can out of Captain Dan, but it’s hard to shake the feeling that someday we’re all going to look back on these few years and wonder why the hell they had to do it in the first place. It’s a team sport, gents. Ross Taylor’s doing his best, but there need to be 9 more of you not being bench decorations for this whole ‘winning matches’ thing to work.

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Waiting on the gentlemen

I’m a fan of bowlers. Spinners especially. In the batsman-dominated and batsman-friendly modern game, I’m usually one of those people that seethes over flat decks and run-glut games and gets disproportionately excited when a spinner notches up some great figures. Good economy rates racked up by slow bowlers make me extremely happy, which is something I’m almost certain I can’t say about most other women I know. I do have a healthy admiration for quality fast and seam bowling – I could watch Shane Bond all day every day if it weren’t for the fact that it would kill him very quickly, and he, Chris Martin and Iain O’Brien were three of the main reasons I became a Kiwi fan – but spin is the ultimate fascination.

I also quite like Graeme Swann. He’s an excellent bowler, he’s refreshingly witty and straight-spoken unlike a lot of his anodyne contemporaries, and he’s usually an amusing Tweeter. Got to love a man who can make you laugh and bowls smart finger-spin.  (Daniel Vettori bowls extremely smart finger spin, and is far foxier than Graeme Swann to boot, but isn’t nearly as funny. Except when he makes unwise choices regarding his hair, but that doesn’t really count. Oh well.)

Earlier today, Graeme Swann, bowler of offspin, became the first Englishman in over 50 years to take a 10-wicket haul in a Test match, and the first to ever do so in the subcontinent. It’s a tremendous achievement, and one that he fully deserves – his talent and performance for England over the past little while leaves no doubt about that. But Swann – so affable, so popular – managed to tarnish his own achievement at the eighth wicket, when he finally got rid of Junaid Siddique to end the staunch rearguard resistance Siddique and Mushfiqur Rahim had mounted for close to 70 overs.

Yeah, he gave him a send-off. Complete with bellowed ‘Fuck off!’ and fist-pumping. Real classy, Graeme.

Let’s review a few things, shall we? First, you’re 31, Junaid is 22. HE’S A CHILD. He also plays for Bangladesh, the team you might remember as the one that always almost makes it but doesn’t quite, except for that one time against Australia that I still think about when my mood is scraping the floor and I need cheering up. Also, it’s not Junaid’s fault that you have an uninspiring and ludicrously overcautious captain, or that you and your fellow bowlers couldn’t get him or the other plucky kid battling to save a Test for his country, Mushfiqur Rahim, out earlier. The whole thing seemed to represent England’s general mood, which was sheer disbelief and something almost like righteous indignation that Bangladesh were proving so hard to dislodge, very much, “Oi! I know WE’RE crap, but you’re supposed to be MORE crap! What the fuck d’you think you’re doing, screwing with the script?!” Sorry, boys, that’s not how it bloody well works.

All these factors aside, Junaid played brilliantly, as did Mushfiqur, and they deserved to be shown some respect. England have been guilty of this several times on this tour, starting off with Paul Collingwood’s dickish crack about wooden golf clubs, and elsewhere today when Stuart Broad, having got Abdur Razzak out lbw, didn’t bother to make anything remotely approximating an appeal, not even turning around to so much as look at the umpire for confirmation. I’ve heard comments defending Swann by stating that his gesture was actually a backhanded compliment to Junaid, showing how important his wicket was, and Broad by calling his move merely overconfident, and those comments aren’t without merit, but what it looked like was disrespectful, juvenile and arrogant, particularly in light of the fact that England’s performance has actually been fairly flat for much of this Test.

I’ve mentioned this before, but it’s worth repeating: there seems to be an epidemic of this kind of shitty classlessness infecting international cricket, and God how I hate it. New Zealand v Australia has already given us a massive dose, and the stage seems to be set for more of the same with Michael Clarke’s return for the Tests after his personal problems with his now ex-fiancée. Chris Martin proved once more why I adore him so by stating earlier today that in his opinion, the crowds will run wild with this, but the New Zealand players shouldn’t. They won the ICC Spirit of Cricket award last year, and this is a golden opportunity for them to prove that it’s not just BS, and that it is still possible to play hard and be uncompromising while still being gentlemen by not bringing up a man’s private heartache in an attempt to fuck with his head on the field.

Please, New Zealand, as a fan, I’m asking you nicely: don’t do it. Please. It’s not worth it. To Daniel Vettori: I get the feeling that you overlook Tim Southee’s tendency to be a douche (he certainly was against Bangladesh) because he is a young, spirited and talented player, but you’ve got to impress on him how important this is.  Because it really, really is.

I’ll be watching, and hoping. Please don’t fuck this up, New Zealand.

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Atlas Sighed

There’s been a trend in recent years of younger men captaining their national sides. The current captains of India, Sri Lanka, South Africa and Bangladesh are all in their twenties. (I am going to leave Pakistan out of this equation because their captaincy issues – well, issues in general – are myriad, and give me stress headaches when I think about them.) England and Sri Lanka have guys in their early thirties, and Australia has either a 28-year old or a 35-year-old depending on what format they’re playing.

Chris Gayle and New Zealand’s Daniel Vettori have a couple of things in common – they’re both national captains, they’re both 30 years old, both are key players in their respective IPL teams, and they both put in an all-rounder’s version of what is usually called a captain’s knock in ODIs this past week – Vettori’s a fighting 70 off 49 and 2-43 from his ten overs against Australia, and, against Zimbabwe, Gayle’s an 88 off 111 and 1-25 from his ten (he also took a catch and was instrumental in a runout.) Gayle’s performance helped the West Indies win, Vettori’s wasn’t quite enough to allow New Zealand to do the same.

Here are ways in which they are different. Gayle has a carefully cultivated image as Mr. Cool, all shades and bling and diamond earrings; while Vettori is occasionally bearded, laconic, and wears prescription glasses – you know, like a geek. Gayle loves his lucrative high-profile endorsements and his million-dollar-deals; Vettori, presumably content with the not-inconsiderable revenue from his own IPL contract, is known for commercials promoting sunglasses for schoolchildren, New Zealand Libraries and Visique Optometrists. Despite both being key batsmen for their sides, Gayle is a top-order striker of skill and elegance, where Vettori comes in at number eight with a small and homely repertoire of shots that somehow brings him lots of runs.

Those don’t really matter very much, though; they’re just interesting tidbits of trivia.

Here are the important differences.

What he just about failed to do the other night, Vettori does all the freaking time. He’s New Zealand’s rock, a man who started out as a bowler of finger-spin in a country filled with quicks because of its fast seaming wickets and made himself one of the best in the world at that, and then worked on his mediocre batting with single-minded focus that couldn’t make it any prettier to look at but did quadruple its effectiveness. He’s now New Zealand’s talisman, their beardy lanky Superman who does it with his glasses on. The side has suffered in ODIs, where they are usually strongest, with the loss of people like Jesse Ryder and my beloved Grant Elliott to injury, but it’s Vettori’s presence or absence that makes or breaks this team. Ever since he took on the responsibilities of national selector, coach-of-sorts and Lord knows what else, the jokes have been coming thick and fast – it’s only a matter of time before the ‘Vettori for PM’ shirts hit the market. They already have ones reading ‘Give Dan More Jobs’ – in what I can only assume is a fatalistic attempt to see just how many things can be dumped on him before he cracks, like a reverse game of Jenga with weights added instead of bricks taken away…and, you know, a real-life dude instead of a toy tower. (Or, as Dave Tickner has pointed out, a really sadistic real-life version of Buckaroo. Crickaroo?) The sight of him coming in late in the game, face set in concentration, to save the innings and take New Zealand home, has become so familiar it’s a wonder they haven’t come up with ‘doing a Vettori’ as verbal shorthand for it, like the way ‘being Mankaded’ came to represent being run out by the bowler because you backed up too far in anticipation.

The reason I’m mentioning all this is to explain why, despite Gayle’s performance and the fact that it was the only thing that saved the West Indies from another in a long, long string of emphatic and embarrassing defeats, I haven’t written a post praising him, and don’t plan to. He doesn’t deserve it. The contrast between him and a man like Daniel Vettori is significant because of their many similarities in age, IPL-involvement and all-round ability, but there’s another comparison I can make that’s even more telling: with Bangladesh’s captain. Another man who this week has had, like Vettori, to be key bowler and batsman for his side while also serving as their leader, only to fall agonizingly short of victory (in his case, to England.) And having done that, to face the international press with grace, optimism and a relentlessly positive attitude.

His name is Shakib-al-Hasan. And he is 22 years old.

So this, Chris Gayle, is why you don’t deserve to be praised. You don’t get to come in after months of fuckery and think you can make up for it with one game. Not enough. You’ve been put to shame by a No. 8 batsman and a kid barely out of his teens – in my humble opinion, they are twice the captains, twice the cricketers, and, yes, each of them is twice the man you are. It’s clear you have an extremely high opinion of yourself; well, take off them shades, boy, I’ve got a photo to leave you with.

This is Daniel Vettori the other night, in the process of trying desperately to take his team over the line. Fun fact: Dan’s got chronic back issues, stemming from an incident in his teens when he actually broke his back; an injury to his bowling shoulder that he’s opted not to have surgery on because that would mean not being able to play for up to 12 months; and on the morning that photo was taken, a stiff neck that almost forced him not to play in the match at all.

Yes, that is him diving. After having spent the first session in the field, and already having batted for an unknown period of time. That’s commitment, Chris. (It might also be stupidity, but it’s certainly not stupidity on the level of some of the stuff you’ve come out with.)

Commitment.

Look it up.

And when you’re done, go talk to young Shakib and take notes on how to be a real man.

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Hot Fuzz

It can’t be easy being Hashim Amla.

He’s got to deal with tin-eared commentators calling him a terrorist; having his personality, batting skills and even other less singular aspects of his appearance (he’s got very nice eyes, for instance) largely ignored, and – even assuming heavy patronage of this place – what must surely be a real bitch of a grooming routine to undertake in the mornings. (Let’s not even start on the secret, bitter rivalry that I am certain would exist between him and Mohammad “MoYo” Yousuf for the title of Greatest Cricketing Beard were it not a totally imaginary award that I just made up right now.)

The beard, one might argue, seems to be far more trouble to Hashim than it’s worth, despite how important it is to him for a combination of religious and cultural reasons.

But Hashim isn’t the possessor of the only noteworthy beard in international cricket – the others might not be as spectacular, or luxuriant, but they’re attached to some pretty significant individuals. Kiwi Übermensch Daniel Vettori has sported one for a while now; ranging from ‘scruffy-librarian’ to ‘antisocial lumberjack’ in length and appearance depending, I assume, on his mood, the conjunctions of Mercury and Venus or possibly just whether or not he slept through the alarm that particular day. Mohammad Yousuf, as has already been mentioned, has a chin-shrub to rival Hashim’s. And Dutch-Australian Renaissance-man Dirk Nannes is usually seen with nifty European-style facial topiary.

The other thing these men have in common is the fact that they’re all, usually, pretty damn spectacular on the pitch (not always in the field, though. Sorry, MoYo, I calls it like I sees it.) I’m not saying that beards have the Samson-like ability to grant their wearers exceptional cricketing skill and/or matchwinning ability, but consider this: on his return from Achilles tendon surgery, the usually clean-shaven Kevin Pietersen and his natty Malevolent-18th-Century-Marquis-style goatee almost blasted England to a series win against Pakistan in Dubai.

Then, more recently, in the opening T20 of Australia’s New Zealand tour, the hosts were thumped by 6 wickets. This is what Daniel Vettori looked like at the toss, still cheerful despite the heightened risk of sunburn awaiting him in the field…

…and here’s Dirty Dirk Nannes, who took two wickets at 5.50 in a victorious cause.

Draw your own conclusions.

(Not to further bias anyone, but what other explanation could Wayne Parnell, a young man of more-than-average good looks, have for persisting with this? Ain’t because of any favours it’s doing him in the attractiveness stakes, that’s for damn sure.)

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The Ongoing Adventures of Guppy Two-Toes

Some time ago on my old blog (and I believe also somewhere in the comments on Iain O’Brien’s blog) I came up with the hypothetical alternate-universe Kiwi superhero pairing of SuperDan and Guppy Two-Toes. SuperDan’s alter ego should be obvious; I figured he needed a sidekick, and who better than a man who somehow not only manages to remain upright but also plays cricket (rather well, I might add) with only seven toes in total? At the time Martin Guptill wasn’t in the best of form, so I reluctantly shelved the idea. Today, however, I am resurrecting it, in light of Guppy Two Toes’ fine maiden test century, which at the time of this writing, he has extended to 130 and is still going strong.

Brendon McCullum has, I should point out, also just scored a century – in less time and with arguably greater flair as well, having brought it up with a very pretty top-edged six – and is also still batting away, but his name isn’t nearly as catchy and he hasn’t overcome a bizarre deforming injury, so he misses out in the totally imaginary superhero stakes. I apologize, Brendon, truly. It was nothing personal.

So here’s to the Ongoing Adventures of SuperDan and Guppy Two-Toes. Long may they continue, and let us all hope that this doesn’t go to their heads to the point that they start showing up to matches wearing tights. (You’re both extremely attractive men – when you’re not conducting unfortunate experiments with your facial hair, anyway – but nobody needs to see that. Trust me.)

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Pop quiz, hotshot

As a placeholder to satiate any readers that might be wondering why I haven’t posted anything in the last few days (ha! as if), I present a multiple-choice caption contest, inspired by Ms. Print’s post on Daniel Vettori’s latest captaincy appointment.

So, what is Daniel V. trying to convey here? Is it:

a) “I am a Kiwi ninja!” *piercing ninja shriek*

b) “I am driving a bus! A giant supermegabadass bus that will run you right over, Mr. Sehwag! Ahaha! VROOOM! Haha!”

or,
c) “I am really excited about this wicket! So excited that my right hand is straying to a highly suggestive position! I must control myself, the match is not yet over.”

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