Kiwi all-rounder Nathan Astle looks back at Flemings’ career as he bids farewell to his “best mate"

Thursday, March 27, 2022

An ode to Stephen Fleming…

Sportz Interactive

The third Test match between England and New Zealand – which came to a close at the McLean Park in Napier on the 26th of March – will probably be one of the few defeats that will be remembered by Kiwi cricket supporters for some time to come; not for the defeat itself but for the fact that this was Stephen Fleming’s last International appearance. During this Test match, the 34-year old closed the final chapter in his international career with a fine half century that very nearly rescued his side from an embarrassing defeat. We caught up with Nathan Astle - a former teammate and a very close friend of Stephen Fleming – who helped us look back at the career of New Zealand’s most successful captain.

Stephen Fleming bid adieu in grand style with two half-centuries in his final Test - but sadly could not avoid a series defeat for New Zealand

Captain Courageous

Stephen Paul Fleming made his first appearance for the black caps almost 14 yrs ago. Since that nervous debut in which he made 94 against India, he has grown from strength to strength to mould himself into one of the finest cricketers that New Zealand has seen. His career statistics include a tally of over 7,000 Test runs at an average of 40.06 and 8,037 ODI runs to go with it. Despite that record, 

Fleming will be the first to put up his hand and say that he has under-achieved as a batsman. The fact remains that he has made only 9 Test centuries, failing to convert a whopping tally of 46 half centuries to bigger scores. But as Nathan Astle rightly points out, it is his astute captaincy and not his batting that Fleming will be remembered for, “He has made a huge contribution to Kiwi cricket. He captained the side so well that he made an average Kiwi outfit look very good with his leadership skills, the way he thought about the game and the belief that he had in his players. He was just brilliant.” says Astle. 

The Thinker

Fleming was a multi-faceted cricketer with several big strengths but there were certain Fleming-esque qualities that really stood out, “He taught our side to ‘squeal’ - that is what we call it - he used to come up with different plans (to attack) certain players… He was a big thinker and he never left a stone unturned. There was a reason behind everything that he did. And he was so different from other captains...”

A knock to remember 

Stephen Fleming ended with a healthy Test average of 40 | Career Stats
There are many memorable knocks attached to Fleming’s name. He has three double centuries to his credit but according to Astle, Fleming’s stand out performance is a 132-ball 134 that he made in the 2003 World Cup in South Africa to help the Kiwis script a memorable victory against the host nation. Coming as it did on the highest stage of one-day cricket and against a tough opposition, that innings will be cherished for a long time, “That hundred he got in the World Cup in South Africa was one of the best knocks that I have ever seen him play.”

The current New Zealand side may have a young inexperienced bowling line-up that still needs to take its first ‘baby steps’, but Nathan Astle believes that it is the Kiwi batting that is a big problem. “Our bowlers are doing fine. I am really impressed with young Tim Southee, I think that he will go a long way for New Zealand. But the batting is a worry, after Stephen leaves, there will be a huge hole in the batting that will be very hard to fill.” 

Final words

“Personally, he was my best mate, so from that point of view it was fantastic to play alongside him for so many years. It is sad to see him go but we all have to move on at some stage and I think that it will be a huge loss to New Zealand cricket. 

- Mamta Joseph