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Left-arm spinners are a dying breed: Vettori

Ashish Magotra in Visakhapatnam | October 01, 2003 12:51 IST

India has for long been described as the land of spin. But when you look at New Zealand's bowling attack, there is only one spinner of quality, Daniel Vettori.

Daniel VettoriThis does not faze Vettori. "I am pretty excited," says the left-arm spinner. "I was looking forward to coming here and bowling a lot of overs.

"Obviously not a great start [in the three-day game against the Board President's XI] with the weather playing truant, but we know how tough the situation is going to be and how hard it will be against India. We have talked about that and we are looking forward to getting out there and getting some games."

The weather, though, has been frustrating. "The last time we came here," Vettori recalls, "a similar thing happened. I know the Indian players were looking to get some match practice as well, so it's worked badly for both teams."

On his last visit to India, Vettori spent time with spin legend Bishen Singh Bedi, learning some of the tricks of the trade. "It's always nice to talk to another left-arm spinner," the bespectacled Kiwi says. "There's not too many around in the world and especially not as good as [Bedi]. It was great to get the chance to include a few of those tips in my repertoire. It's been a while and, who knows, I might get another chance to catch up with him later on in the tour!"

Spinners have always been successful in India, but Indian batsmen also play spin better than almost any other batsmen in the world.

Vettori isn't worried, however. "I'd like to consider myself a spearhead as well," he says. "It is a little more responsibility, me [being] probably the senior bowler in the team and the guy who has played here before. So there is a little bit of pressure on myself and also [offspinner] Paul Wiseman to come up with the goods, especially bowling spin in India."

Vettori enjoyed his stint with English county club Nottinghamshire. "I had a really good time," he says, "and it helped me a lot. Hopefully, I'll get another chance to do it down the line."

Daniel VettoriThe tracks and conditions in New Zealand assist seam and swing bowling a lot, but tracks in India are suited more to spin. One wonders whether Vettori has to make big adjustments in his bowling style when playing abroad.

"I don't bowl on New Zealand tracks, so I don't have to make too many adjustments!" he replies, only half in jest. Vettori hardly had a bowl when India toured New Zealand late last year. "For a spinner," he says, "it is very enjoyable coming here because you know you are going to get wickets that are going to help you."

But Vettori is not about to make any tall claims about his performance, as he is under no illusions about the task ahead. "I need to see the wickets before doing anything," he says. "Basically I need to settle into a long spell and get used to bowling for long periods because that's what is expected over here.

"Conditions do help batting, but just like anywhere else, if you bowl consistently well and bowl good balls, you will pick up wickets. The pressure goes on us to bowl well, but if you can do that, you will have a successful tour.

"But," he adds, "it is very tough because of the quality of the batsmen and the nature of the wickets."

New Zealand, however, are not a team to be trifled with, as they proved on their tour of Sri Lanka after the World Cup. The knowledge gained there of playing in subcontinental conditions will surely help them in India too.

"We played on some wickets that turned a bit," says the left-arm spinner. "We did well, we managed to win the one-day series, and drew the Test series, so I think we are taking a lot of heart from how we played over there and some knowledge of the conditions as well that hopefully we can apply here."

But the Indian line-up in batsman-friendly home conditions is probably the strongest in the world and Vettori knows what he is up against. "I think everyone knows how good they are. They are four or five of the best batsmen in the world and you lump them all in one side, it is tough opposition. So we realise how tough they are, I suppose reality sets in.

"You just have to go out and bowl good balls and do that consistently. If we don't do that, then we are going to get killed. We are going to have to bowl exceptionally well."

While the art of leg-spin bowling has Shane Warne as a mascot and off-spin has Muthiah Muralitharan and Harbhajan Singh, there have been no star left-arm spinners for quite a few years now. Daniel Vettori is good, very good, but he is nowhere near the class of Warne, or even Anil Kumble at his best.

"Probably the advent of leg-spinners in recent years has contributed to the decline of left-arm orthodox spinners," he muses. "The blossoming of Shane Warne and what he has done for the game... And also look at the off-spinenrs around the world -- Muralitharan, Harbhajan and Saqlain [Mushtaq of Pakistan], who bowl the one that goes the other way.

"So much importance is placed on them that they have become more dominant. Left-arm spinners are a dying breed and there are only a few of us left."

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