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Cricket World Rewind: #OnThisDay - Stephen Fleming, most successful Kiwi Test captain, was born

 

April 1, 1973 - A Test average of a tick over 40 doesn't have legend written all over it, but the fact that Stephen Fleming captained New Zealand from 1997 to 2006 in 80 matches, out of which he won 28 and lost 27, makes him the most successful Test captain New Zealand have ever had.

A win/loss ratio of 1.03 helped Fleming keep the leadership role with no or little competition. This makes him the skipper to have won the most Tests for New Zealand till date. Current captain Kane Williamson may have a win percentage of over 55, but with 18 Test wins, he still has a lot of catching up to do.

Fleming played his first Test Match in 1994 in Hamilton against India in front of his home crowd, and made his maiden Test Century in 1997 in Auckland where he scored 128 runs against England. Fleming soon replaced Lee Germon and became the youngest ever captain for New Zealand at the age of 23.

26 October, 2004 was a red letter day for Fleming as he gained three New Zealand Test records in facing the Bangladesh attack at Chittagong. Firstly, his 87th Test earned him the record for most caps won by a New Zealander - which has now been surpassed by Ross Taylor and that too by a fine margin - and, in striding to the crease for the 150th time; this was the greatest number of Test innings for New Zealand. As he moved to 81, in an innings where he would strike 202, he surpassed Martin Crowe's record aggregate of 5444 runs in Tests for New Zealand.

It was Ross Taylor who became the leading run-scorer for New Zealand in Test cricket, surpassing Fleming to reach the landmark in the last Test series between New Zealand and Australia. Fleming had amassed 7172 runs in 111 Tests at an average of 40.06 with 9 hundreds and 46 half-centuries. 

In February, last year, Taylor had moved past Fleming for the most ODI runs by a New Zealand batsman as well.

It must be remembered that Fleming, unlike his counterparts, didn’t have a huge pool of talent to choose from. Yet, the fact that he extracted the fullest out of his troops of limited abilities deserves tremendous praise. With Fleming at the helm, New Zealand were on a par with some of the best teams in the world in both formats of the game, best verified by series wins against England and India.

New Zealand winning their only ICC Trophy, the ICC Knockout in 2000, is the highlight of his career. In April 2006, in a Test between New Zealand and South Africa at Newlands, Cape Town, Fleming secured his third double-century and became the first Kiwi to achieve that feat.

In the 2007 ODI World Cup, he scored 353 runs at an average of 39.22 and ended as New Zealand's second highest run scorer in the tournament. Fleming also has 170 catches to his name in Tests, the 3rd highest aggregate for a non-wicketkeeper.

He retired from ODIs in 2007, after leading New Zealand to yet another World Cup semi-final. He was relieved of the Test captaincy in September 2007 after a decade in charge and retired in early 2008 after the home series against England.

Fleming went on to play for Chennai Super Kings in the inaugural edition of the IPL in 2008. From next year onwards, he hung his boots and was appointed coach, a role he continues to play and how. After helping Melbourne Stars reach two BBL finals during his four years at the club, he stepped down from that coaching gig.

Fleming continues to take on new and challenging responsibilities and has been confirmed as Nottingham-based Hundred coach.

 

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