Opinion: Vettori underlines value to NZ team

Captain fantastic? You bet.

Daniel Vettori's nine-wicket haul and gritty effort with the bat in both innings not only saved New Zealand's blushes in the first test against Bangladesh this week, but underlined his value to the side as a player and in his new role as captain.

It was arguably one of the best test performances by a New Zealand captain.

Vettori took five for 59 and four for 74 with the ball and scored 55 not out and 76 to steer New Zealand to the three-wicket victory.

In doing so he became the first player to score at least a half-century and take four wickets in both innings of a test, and he is only the third player, and the second captain, to score at least 50 in each innings and take eight or more wickets in a match.

If the pressure of captaincy is telling on the 29-year-old it is not showing.

For his part, he shrugged off the effort, saying it was simply the role of the captain to be the best player on the park, like Ricky Ponting (Australia) and Graeme Smith (South Africa).

A student of the game, Vettori might not yet have the tactical nous his predecessor, Stephen Fleming, possessed.

But his comments indicate he is fast learning what it takes to motivate a team.

There is nothing quite like leading from the front and his decision to come in as nightwatchman when Jesse Ryder was dismissed shortly before the end of day four was inspired.

His form over the past three or four seasons with the bat certainly warranted a promotion in the order but it was more about the message it sent to the rest of the troops.

Vettori, you see, has taken charge of a New Zealand team in transition.

It is a team with an inexperienced and, at times, rash top order.

Players such as debutant Ryder, Ross Taylor and Brendon McCullum like to play their shots and often pay the price for their impulsiveness.

Vettori is quite an attacking batsman.

But to go in and bat in the fashion he did and grind out his innings was a lesson to his team-mates.

Sometimes it is hard to believe the Harry Potter doppelganger would not be more comfortable hanging out with half a dozen nerdy friends playing Dungeons and Dragons in his mother's garage.

But the ungainly left-handed batsman and slow orthodox bowler is one of New Zealand's best all-rounders.

Often criticised for his inability to spin the ball, Vettori uses subtle variations in flight, pace and length to conjure wickets and has claimed 266 test wickets at an average of 33.77 in 84 matches.

He has also scored 2876 runs at 27.65.

To put those statistics in perspective, it is interesting to compare them with those of Sir Richard Hadlee and Chris Cairns.

The trio are the only New Zealanders to take 200 test wickets and score 2000 runs.

Hadlee has the superior bowling analysis.

He took 431 wickets at 22.29 but his batting average of 27.16 is less than that of both Cairns and Vettori.

Cairns has the healthiest batting average, scoring 3320 runs at 33.53, and he took 218 wickets at 29.40.

While Vettori's bowling averages have, by and large, remained consistent since his debut in 1997, his batting has taken off in the past five years.

Since the beginning of 2004, he has scored 1627 runs at 37.83, and he has scored those runs at healthy strike rate.

A breakdown of his batting analysis shows he averages 41.06 batting at No 8.

As an all-rounder, though, Vettori has often been overshadowed by his team-mate, Jacob Oram, who has scored 1667 runs at 37.04 and taken 60 wickets at 31.18.

But if Vettori can stay injury-free he could close in on Hadlee's total of 431 wickets and, batting the way he has been, end his career with a very respectable average in the mid 30s.

It seems inevitable he will join Imran Khan, Ian Botham, Kapil Dev, Shaun Pollock, Shane Warne and Hadlee as the only players who have taken at least 300 wickets and scored at least 3000 runs.