ICL: Indian Cricket League

Fleming to retire after England series


flemingStephen Fleming, New Zealand’s most-capped player, has announced he will retire from Test cricket at the end of the upcoming home series against England. Fleming said it was better for his family if he quit the game ahead of the return tour of England in May and June.

“I always indicated that I was likely to retire from international cricket at some point in the near future and the time is right for me and my family to do that now,” Fleming said. “Retiring before the tour to England will allow me to be with Kelly for the birth of our second child.”

Fleming will take part in the Indian Premier League, however, and said it was a good way to stay involved in the game. “It is an exciting opportunity and one that I will be pursuing with the full support of New Zealand Cricket,” he said. “The IPL only takes a short amount of my time each year, and allows me to continue pursuing my new endeavours outside of the game.”

One of those aims is to start his own marketing, media and sports management business but NZC’s chief executive Justin Vaughan hopes Fleming will play a part in the country’s cricketing future. “Stephen’s presence and leadership qualities had a tremendous impact on the team and he will be missed by New Zealand Cricket and the Black Caps,” Vaughan said.

“He has made a huge contribution to cricket in New Zealand and I sincerely wish him all the best. I’m sure we have not seen the last of him and we are working to ensure that he has a role within cricket in New Zealand in the future.”

Fleming departs with a sackful of New Zealand Test records. No New Zealander has played as many Tests (108), scored as many runs (6875), taken as many catches (166), captained as many games (80), or led as many wins (28) as Fleming.

Appointed at 23, he was the country’s youngest Test skipper and only Allan Border, who led Australia through 93 Tests, guided his team in more games. When Fleming retired from one-day international cricket last September he left with a similar bunch of records.

At the same as Fleming quit ODIs, New Zealand handed the Test captaincy to Daniel Vettori. Fleming had wanted to stay on as leader in the longer format, but he also admitted he had seriously considered a substantial offer from the Indian Cricket League, and it became clear his time at the top level was drawing to a close.

The only question was when in 2008 he would end his career. Would it be before the home series against England, after it, or following the return tour of England in New Zealand’s winter? Fleming, a man who avoids fanfare where possible, has opted for three final Tests at home.

That will give local fans an opportunity to farewell a man who has defined New Zealand cricket for more than a decade. When he made his Test debut in 1993-94 it was immediately apparent the selectors had found an important player for the future success of the side. In a team led by Ken Rutherford against India in Hamilton, Fleming made 92 in his opening Test, and he followed it just days later with 90 in his ODI debut in Napier.

But triple-figures never quite agreed with Fleming, who ended up with nine centuries and 43 half-centuries in accumulating a Test average of 39.73. It took him 23 Tests to make his first hundred and a month later he was thrust into the captaincy when Lee Germon was unavailable for against England due to a groin injury. Germon did not return and Fleming began a ten-year reign during which he eventually became regarded as one, if not the most, astute leader in the game.

Through it all runs kept coming for Fleming, though not in the proportions he or his country would have liked. He was sometimes accused of lacking concentration as he tried to build big scores and that trend looked set to continue in Colombo in 1998 when he absent-mindedly strolled to the crease without his box and had to rush back to retrieve it.

A lazy shot brought his dismissal for 78, but in his second innings he displayed a rarely-seen resolve, batting for nearly eight hours to finish unbeaten on 174 and setting up a 167-run victory. It was his second Test century and New Zealand hoped it would be his turning point. He didn’t reach triple-figures again in a Test for nearly four years.

A highlight eventually came in the same city five years later when he batted for nearly 11 hours to register an unbeaten 274 - it remains his highest score - and then made an unselfish declaration that left the door open for a result. He finished the match having been on the field in searing heat for all but the first 44 minutes of the draw and any suggestions that he lacked application were finally put to rest.

As if to prove that his double-century was no fluke, he rattled off several more mammoth efforts in Tests: 192 against Pakistan, 202 in Bangladesh and 262 against South Africa. There were outstanding one-day innings along the way as well, and an unbeaten 134 against South Africa in a must-win World Cup match in 2003 was particularly important.

But more than individual performances, Fleming was proud of the times he led his small country to big successes. Guiding them to a 2-1 Test win in England in 1999 was particularly special, although Fleming was also pleased with the 0-0 drawn series in Australia in 2001-02. Another highlight came in 2000 when he led New Zealand to their first triumph in a major tournament - the Champions Trophy in Nairobi.

The one-day arena was also where Fleming experienced some of his biggest disappointments, and failing to get his team into a World Cup final was a regret. Following last year’s semi-final knockout at the hands of Sri Lanka, Fleming quit the ODI captaincy, which precipitated a chain of events that gradually led to his removal from the Test leadership. Fittingly, though, he has been afforded the right to end his playing career on his own terms.

Source:Cricket News

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