My humbling encounter with Blackcaps legend Daniel Vettori

As the Black Caps make a winning start to the T20 World Cup, Julia Hollingsworth remembers the time she lost big in a meeting with Dan Vettori.

A year ago, I met cricketing legend and part-time heartthrob Daniel Vettori.

It was the height of Cricket World Cup fever. The weather was unseasonably hot, and everyone was suddenly a hardcore cricket fan. It had never been cooler to express an interest in the game that was usually only followed by massive nerds and my dad.

The Black Caps were smashing sixes, but I was also on a bit of a winning streak. The World Cup gave me a great new excuse to bring up my proudest sporting achievement: being awarded best bowler of the season when I was 11 years old, when my dad may or may not have been my coach. I liked to drop the fact so people would know I hadn’t always been Julia, messily-dressed unathletic reporter who eschews exercise, but once had Real Potential.

Quickly I, a non-cricket lover who had once pretended to be asleep and/or deathly ill to avoid my team’s Saturday morning cricket matches, became sucked into the excitement sweeping the nation. I was so caught up that I asked for a day off to attend the excruciatingly close New Zealand vs South Africa semi-final at Eden Park, which I would later describe as “more intense than driving in Wellington” (I was a learner driver). It wasn’t the sort of phrasing you’d hear on the news or anything, but it was very accurate.

The next day, I was waiting for a verdict at the High Court in Auckland. My reporter friend quizzed me on the previous night’s game, as if assessing whether I could now be allowed into the fold of True Cricket Fans. Who was at the crease when Grant Elliot scored those winning runs, he asked. “Vettori,” I responded. “Nathan Vettori”.

His name is not Nathan Vettori. Or, my second guess: Chris Vettori. His name, as it turns out, is Daniel Vettori. I felt my cricket credentials, carefully built up over at least a week of cricket-related chat, slipping away fast. I had been found out as the fake cricket enthusiast I was. I would need to tread more carefully during these conversations from now on.

Later that day, as the jury took a break, my reporter friends and I wandered off for lunch. As we were passing Auckland hotel The Pullman, we saw a familiar face. Just Daniel Vettori, the man who was at least 40 per cent responsible for New Zealand’s victory over South Africa the night before.

“Go up to him,” my friends encouraged, a part of them definitely hoping I would inadvertently call him “Nathan Vettori” to his face. I paused. Was I really worthy of talking to cricketing legend Daniel Vettori, who I had forgotten the name of only hours earlier? Had I really gone from interviewing people at legitimate press conferences to fan-girling over reasonably attractive sports players as they attempted to get on their team bus?

Yes. Yes I had.

Daniel Vettori was a lot better looking up close than I’d expected during my 20 years of vaguely following the Black Caps. His light brown hair had a slight wave, his glasses were really working for him, and he wouldn’t have looked out of place at Golden Dawn. But there was no time for a burgeoning crush – if anything was going to destroy our prospects of a romantic future, this horrible fangirl encounter would.

I can’t remember what I said to Daniel Vettori now, and frankly, I am relieved that our limited conversation is lost to the mists of time. I say “conversation”, but I can’t remember Daniel Vettori forming any actual words during our encounter. Somehow, he resignedly agreed to taking a picture, but in a way that you could tell he really just wanted to get on the bus and away from terrifying, sweaty, entitled fans like me.

Suddenly I had far too many belongings in my arms. The coat I was holding flopped about, threatening to fall on the ground as I struggled to get into photo-taking position. I was wearing wool on a sunny day and I felt my sweaty wee face burning up. Had I even showered that morning? I fiddled with my phone, accidentally opening the calculator app instead of the camera. Daniel Vettori, the most famous man I have ever shared a selfie with, said nothing, his agitation palpable.

A terrible thought entered my mind: Daniel Vettori didn’t think I was a cool chill babe who happened to want to take a selfie with him. We weren’t going to swap numbers after this and message each other witty cricket jokes. To this dreamy sporting star, I was of the same ilk as the school children and middle-aged women who came up to him in the supermarket and thanked him for what he’d done for the country. I was the type of person who’d bug Michael Galvin in Farro Fresh, the type of person who’d snap a pic of Lorde when she was eating ramen. I was the worst.

We only snapped one terrible photo but I was far too ashamed to ask for another. Daniel Vettori walked off in relief. We had shared a moment, but it was fair to say Daniel Vettori hated every second of it.



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