Daniel Vettori has been handed the New Zealand Test captaincy but Stephen Fleming will continue as a Test player, ending speculation that he would join the Indian Cricket League (ICL). Fleming announced he is retiring from one-day cricket and hinted that the approaching New Zealand summer would be his last as a Test player.
Vettori will take over the captaincy immediately, meaning he will be in charge for New Zealand's two-Test tour of South Africa in November. Fleming quit the ODI leadership after New Zealand's World Cup semi-final exit and Vettori was placed in control for the ICC World Twenty20. Fleming said he remained fully committed to New Zealand Cricket (NZC) but realised the time had come to depart from the ODI scene.
"While I would have wished to remain captain of the Test team, I can also understand why the selectors prefer to have a single captain for the Test, one-day and Twenty20 teams," Fleming said. "I hold Daniel Vettori in high regard and will support him fully in his transition as Test captain.
"The tour to South Africa will be a real challenge. No New Zealand team has ever won a Test series there and I am looking forward to the tour. I shall continue playing Tests as long as I have the desire and skills required to contribute. However, it is likely that the coming New Zealand summer will be my last home series."
Justin Vaughan, NZC's chief executive, said Fleming's decision to graciously hand the reins to Vettori after a decade in charge was a measure of his character. "True leadership is more than just the title of captain," Vaughan said.
"Stephen is a true professional. He cares about the team and I am sure he will be a big help to Daniel and remain a leader within the Black Caps. It is likely that this will be Stephen's last home season [in the Test team] and we will ensure that it is memorable and befits our greatest ever captain."
Fleming, 34, has spent the New Zealand off-season playing county cricket for Nottinghamshire, where he had kept his silence amid rumours he would quit international cricket to captain a team in the ICL. His refusal to rule out such a move added to the speculation, but NZC said it would not release him or any other players from their central contracts to join the Indian group. His suggestion that 2007-08 could be his last season as a Test player leaves the door open for Fleming to join the ICL next year, if the league's first tournament is a success.
Fleming captained New Zealand in a record 80 Tests, which was streets ahead of their second longest-serving leader John Reid (34 Tests). Only Allan Border, with 93 matches in charge, led his country in more Tests than Fleming. His winning ratio of 35% put him marginally behind only Geoff Howarth at 36.66% as New Zealand's most successful Test captain.
He is also the only man to play 100 Tests for New Zealand and should add to his tally of 104 in South Africa later this year, at home against Bangladesh and England from January to March, and then on what could be a farewell tour of England next May and June. Fleming has not played a Test without the leadership since taking over from Lee Germon in February 1997.
Initially Germon was out injured, allowing Fleming to become the youngest New Zealand Test captain, at 23 years and 319 days, but the incumbent never played another Test and Fleming's ten-year reign had begun. At first he was criticised for being too laid-back in his decision-making, but eventually Fleming became respected as one of the best tacticians in the game.
He led New Zealand on their memorable 1999 tour of England when they upset the hosts to win the Test series 2-1, and he also guided his side to a series win in the West Indies and respectable draws on tours of Australia and India.