Brendon McCullum conceded Daniel Vettori had probably played his last international innings on home soil, saying New Zealand were intent on giving the veteran a fairytale send-off in the World Cup final.
Vettori was in the middle at Auckland’s Eden Park on Tuesday night when the Black Caps clinched a spot in Sunday’s title decider in Melbourne with a dramatic one-ball-to-spare victory over South Africa.
The 36-year-old Vettori, who scored a crucial boundary at the death to help seal the four-wicket win, has been coy about his future plans but McCullum said “this was potentially his last game on New Zealand soil”.
“Last night with him out there at the end, that’s a memory he’ll never forget,” McCullum told reporters.
“Hopefully we’ve got one more game, one more big fairytale finish for him and then we’ll have a few beers.”
The Black Caps skipper said Vettori, who claimed his 300th one-day international wicket earlier in the tournament, was still experiencing pain from a back injury that almost ended his career.
“He’s played a lot of his cricket with bumps and bruises and niggles and strains. People probably don’t realise but he’s had to overcome quite a bit to continue to back up and get out there and represent New Zealand. He’s a tough customer and he’s been an amazing servant for New Zealand cricket.”
McCullum said he was still savouring the “special” semi-final win, New Zealand’s first in seven attempts, and had not yet thought about the tournament decider.
“We’ll deal with the final in the next couple of days. Today it’s all about letting (the South Africa win) sink in,” he said.
“When you’ve achieved something as special as we have, you don’t want to park it too quickly. You have to allow yourself the opportunity to stop and smell the roses and identify what’s been the catalyst to your success.”
The New Zealand skipper, who scored a Test triple century last year, said the feeling when Grant Elliott smashed a six to send the Black Caps into the final was the best of his career.
“That was without doubt the best feeling I’ve been a part of,” he told reporters.
“I’ve had many people congratulate us today and say it was the single greatest sporting event that they’ve ever been to, which is pretty amazing, to be a part of that.”
New Zealand will play the winner of Thursday’s semi-final between Australia and India in the decider at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Sunday.