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Last Updated: Wednesday, 12 September 2007, 14:37 GMT 15:37 UK
Fleming a tough act to follow
By Paresh Soni

Stephen Fleming celebrates the Test series triumph in England in 1999
Fleming led his team to a famous series triumph in England in 1999
It seems ironic that for someone who was consistently lauded for his decision-making, Stephen Fleming appeared to have little say in the end of his reign as New Zealand captain.

It was hardly what he deserved after a decade of shrewd leadership which established him as one of the best skippers the modern game has seen.

Fleming, 34, quit as one-day captain following the World Cup but had hoped to continue in the longer format.

New Zealand instead opted to promote Daniel Vettori, a decision which caught former Kiwi captain Geoff Howarth by surprise.

"I can only presume there may have been conflicts of opinion. I hadn't seen it coming," Howarth told BBC Sport.

The Black Caps were in disarray when Fleming took over for the third Test against England 10 years ago in Christchurch.

The team had become used to losing - only one Test win in 19 games - and was racked by indiscipline.

With his personality, his ability as a player and tactician he instilled confidence in the side

Howarth on Fleming

But the left-handed batsman remained in charge for 80 Tests - only Australian Allan Border (93) has been in charge for more - and his win ratio of 35% was only bettered for New Zealand by Howarth's 36.66%.

"There were one or two problems going on in the background, things hadn't been going well, but with his personality, his ability as a player and tactician he instilled some confidence in the side," Howarth explained.

"He's not a demonstrative type, he's basically a quiet operator, who went about his job without the histrionics that some players get up to today.

"Like good captains he has a good understanding of the game, his players and the opposition. He could think very well on his feet.

Stephen Fleming was deprived of the services of Shane Bond for long spells
Fleming was deprived of the services of Bond for long spells

"We haven't got much depth in New Zealand and considering what he's had to work with he's done a very good job."

Among Fleming's greatest successes was a stunning 2-1 triumph over England in 1999 when he appeared to finally break through in the role.

New Zealand's Australian coach at the time Steve Rixon said later: "When we first started I said 'while I'm making most of the decisions and you're relating them to the players, somewhere along the way you will cross over and you'll be making the decisions by yourself'.

"In England when I could see he was so far on top of his own captaincy. I just eased away from it and backed off, and he said to me 'did you feel the changeover?'"

In 2000, victory over Zimbabwe saw Fleming pass Howarth's total of wins in Tests and then came New Zealand's only international tournament success, in the inaugural ICC Knockout Trophy.

Where are the players' allegiences going to be - with Vettori or the man they have been captained by in the last five or six years?

Howarth on the future

Regional pride was secured when the Kiwis earned a creditable 0-0 series draw in Australia in 2001 and there was also a historic first Test series win in the Caribbean in 2002.

It earned him a big admirer in legendary Australian leg-spinner Shane Warne, who said: "He has a wonderful cricket brain."

Throughout his reign, Fleming's captaincy was always judged in relation to the paucity of quality players at his disposal.

His one truly world-class paceman, Shane Bond, was sidelined with injuries for long spells.

And after his side's World Cup semi-final defeat earlier this year, he admitted his team had consistently been found wanting when it came to the crunch.

Daniel Vettori will take over the reins from Stephen Fleming
Vettori has a tall order to match Fleming's success as skipper

"That's been the long-standing problem with New Zealand cricket," Howarth said.

"We haven't got much depth and if we have one of our main strike bowlers injured, we have problems trying to fill that gap."

One big gap New Zealand will now have to fill is at the very top.

Having become accustomed to the canny tactical nous of Fleming, the Black Caps will have a new voice calling the shots.

Howarth believes it could present problems even though spinner Vettori is also highly regarded as an astute thinker.

"Daniel is a very intellgent cricketer and has been around a long time," he added.

"I'm sure he will do a fine job but it's going to be difficult for the other players - where are their allegiences going to be, with Vettori or the man they have been captained by in the last five or six years?

"If Daniel has anything about him he will address that immediately.

"Daniel is 28 and could have another 10 years in him so he may play 80-odd Tests and he could surpass Fleming's record if he is successful.

"But the man he is replacing had a long reign and it's going to be difficult to beat that record."



SEE ALSO
Vettori named as NZ Test captain
12 Sep 07 |  New Zealand
Fleming set for Notts departure
05 Sep 07 |  Nottinghamshire
No Kiwi Twenty20 spot for Fleming
09 Aug 07 |  New Zealand
No dream ending for Fleming
25 Apr 07 |  Cricket
Fleming quits as one-day captain
24 Apr 07 |  Cricket
Bracewell denies row with Fleming
09 Nov 05 |  New Zealand
Secrets to Notts success
17 Sep 05 |  Counties
Nottinghamshire win county title
17 Sep 05 |  Counties
Fleming rejects capital lifestyle
20 Apr 05 |  Counties


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