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Last Updated: Tuesday, 25 March 2008, 07:59 GMT
New Zealand v England 3rd Test

By Mark Richardson
Former New Zealand opening batsman

Thanks to his performance against England in the final Test in Napier, Stephen Fleming has finished his career with a batting average of 40 - a sign of a decent Test player.

But as Fleming moves into retirement he will be remembered as New Zealand cricket's nearly man.

Stephen Fleming
Fleming's New Zealand career has spanned 14 years

He nearly got a century on Test debut (out in the 90s); he's nearly achieved everything there is to achieve in New Zealand cricket.

He's scored the most Test runs, got the most double hundreds (three), captained the Black Caps the most times and achieved the most Test wins.

Actually he's nearly done enough to be considered this country's best ever cricketer.

But he's not and that is simply because his average amount of runs per innings has not been enough and he kept getting out between 50 and 100.

In the end his batting average is average for a good player and his conversion rate of 50s to 100s is poor for a player with such technique and skill.

And that will define Fleming the batsman as an underachiever.

If you think that doesn't irk him personally then you would be wrong.

However while Fleming will regret his poor shot selections after bringing up half centuries - just as he will the shot that led to his dismissal in the first innings of his last Test in Napier against England - himself and the global cricket fraternity look to the wider picture when assessing the contribution he has made to New Zealand cricket.

Stephen Fleming was one of if not the most influential cricketers New Zealand has had.

A fresh-faced Fleming in 1994, when he made his Test debut
A fresh-faced Fleming in 1994, when he made his Test debut

He thought cricket at the strategic level. He was not the official chief executive of New Zealand cricket but when it came to the direction the New Zealand cricket team took - he was the man with the vision.

In 1999 he led the Blackcaps to a memorable series victory against England and at that point he took control.

In fact he took so much control that three years later New Zealand Cricket was moved to appoint a strong-willed autocratic coach in the form of John Bracewell to limit the total influence Fleming was having.

When Fleming was relieved of the captaincy following the World Cup in Caribbean it was essentially the beginning of the end and ultimately it has led to his premature retirement because some people are meant to be the chief executive and not just a worker.

As a cricketer Fleming will be most remembered as an influential leader first and foremost and I agree but I also feel the nearly tag also applies to his captaincy.

He nearly won a series against a top Australian side in Australia, he nearly won a series in India and he nearly won a series in Sri Lanka.

Fleming achieved much in his career and he should be proud of what he achieved but in the back of his mind he will also know it could have and should have been so much better as an individual and as the team leader.

He will leave with regrets and he may never lose them but he will also never lose the personal qualities that made him such an influential character in New Zealand cricket - the ability to lead men.

Mark Richardson played 38 Tests for New Zealand between 2000 and 2004

Fleming targets victorious finale
21 Mar 08 |  New Zealand
England in New Zealand 2008
22 Mar 08 |  Cricket


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