Saturday, October 31, 2009

Cricket: From frying pan into the fire for Vettori

The first thing Daniel Vettori mentioned when hitting the tarmac in Dubai last week was that he was relieved to have escaped the all-consuming attention that came with the resignation of New Zealand coach Andy Moles.

Given that he is due to take the field in two days under cloudless skies and a forecasted temperature of 36° against a useful Pakistan line-up hellbent on revenge for their Champions Trophy semifinal defeat, you could argue he's leapt from the frying pan into the fire.

Add his responsibilities as selector and surrogate coach and you cannot help but feel that October-November 2009 are going to make for an interesting chapter when he comes to write his life story.

"I don't feel like I have to pick up any slack in terms of coaching the side or anything like that but it's about coming over here and getting the job done," Vettori said on arrival in the Middle East.

That marries with something he told the Herald on Sunday last week, when news of Moles' resignation was confirmed. It was irrelevant, Vettori emphasised, what he thought of having to take on a greater leadership role; how he dealt with it was the only thing that mattered.

In two weeks, New Zealand cricket will know exactly how he dealt with it. Mark Greatbatch will be on the trip to act as a sounding board for Vettori when it comes to matters of selection. But you can bet your last cent he will also be detailing the dynamic within the squad and making recommendations back to NZC about what type of coach Vettori needs alongside him.

That's why, despite the screeds of speculation in the past week (some of it sound, some of it downright silly) over who might next coach New Zealand, Justin Vaughan has stated the phone will not be picked up in anger until the team returns. It is one reason (although not the only one) there have been only tepid appraisals of John Wright's credentials, despite a couple of high-profile endorsements.

So Vettori is leading not just for the present but the future. In a sense, the results are almost secondary.

If they win, there is going to be the inevitable call from some to carry on during the immediate future without a head coach, bringing in specialists when required. If they lose, not a day will pass this summer when there won't be fresh speculation over who should get the job.

It won't be Pakistan coach Intikhab Alam, though he did have this to offer on the debate.

"From where I see it, it is very important for an international cricket team to have a full-time coach," he is reported as saying, hardly surprisingly, as Pakistan coach is not noted as the most secure position in world cricket.

"It could be tough for him [Vettori]. I mean, the whole idea of having a coach is to ensure that the captain is spared from any headaches and can focus on leading his players on the field in the best possible manner."

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