Stephen Fleming has brushed aside the criticism of his captaincy during the recent Test series in England. New Zealand were thrashed 0-3, but Fleming insisted that the blame lay with the bowlers, not his tactics.
"I don't think the captaincy was that bad, you are handicapped by the way the team goes - you live by the fluctuations of the team," Fleming told the media on his return from England. "I was up for this Test series more than anything, it was just frustrating we couldn't apply enough pressure. They were scoring too quickly. We worked bloody hard off the park to come up with combinations that would make us effective in the test series. Shane Bond was a big loss, he may have been able to cancel out [Stephen] Harmison."
The New Zealand selectors came in for plenty of flak for choosing to send only a 14-member squad - especially since there were question marks over the fitness of Bond and Daryl Tuffey even before the squad left for England - but Fleming tactfully refused to comment in the issue. "It's an unfair question because I don't have much to do with selection these days."
Fleming did admit, though, that he was worried about his team's tendency to allow the opposition to chase down challenging fourth-innings totals. In their last seven Tests, New Zealand have failed to defend targets of 274, 234, 282 and 284.
"We can't brush it aside," he said. "Whether it was a skill factor or a mental factor in England was discussed at length on tour and will be discussed at length again now that we are home, because there is a similar trait."
New Zealand may have come a cropper in the Tests, but they bounced back magnificently in the one-dayers, winning the NatWest Series quite handily. With the ICC Champions Trophy coming up in September, Fleming was obviously buoyed by that result. "We're really looking forward to the ICC tournament. The match against Australia [in the tournament] is already being billed as the game of the tournament, so we are looking forward to it."