It took Stephen Fleming a few years to really get the hang of cricket leadership. But when he'd completed his captaincy education, he proved to be as good as it gets.
Over the second half of his career, tactically he was supreme. I suspect he'd give a lot of credit for his success to Steve Rixon. The former Australian wicketkeeper was coach at the time Fleming replaced Lee Germon in 1997. He was a strong guiding hand.
Although he looks low key on the surface Fleming was a hard-headed skipper. When he took over, the environment was pretty challenging. There was a hard core of players in the New Zealand team, strong-minded individuals who needed some handling. Think of Chris Cairns, Dion Nash, Craig McMillan, Nathan Astle, Chris Harris and yours truly.
He managed to band together a bunch who had their own idiosyncrasies, and who weren't the easiest to handle. This was possibly his greatest achievement and it set him up for the successes to follow.
The couple of years preceding his appointment were turbulent. Things had been difficult when Glenn Turner was coach, but Fleming won the respect of the players.
Part of this came from the way he handled the fallout from the Turner years. It did not go unnoticed by the senior players that he quietly sat to one side as the citadel crumbled and waited until my recall at the expense of Lee Germon opened the door for his captaincy. In that way our futures were inextricably entwined.
No one ever talked about it but those of us who fought the fight - Cairns, Roger Twose, myself and others - were doing it so that Flem would lead us. From there, having won our respect, it was a simple matter to have us all singing from the same hymn sheet.
It quickly became obvious that Fleming wasn't afraid to get stuck into the opposition. There was plenty of talk out in the middle. He didn't do much himself, but he had guys who were prepared to get their hands dirty. Nash, for one, liked a scrap as much as I did.
He copped some flak after an ODI in Perth in 2001 when we slowed down our progress against South Africa in 2001, losing heavily with the idea of squeezing Australia out of the finals. That simply demonstrated his steely attitude, and it suited us to a tee.
There is no question Fleming should have reached 20 test hundreds, or more and gone past Martin Crowe's New Zealand record of 17.
That he didn't is disappointing not just for Flem but for all of us who played with him. If you have played with someone for a while their disappointments become your own. That he has failed to nail some of the chances that have come his way has served to demonstrate an important difference between he and Crowe.
Fleming is a more rounded individual. Crowe was an obsessive, as the best players are.
I've never seen a better slip catcher than Fleming. I can't remember him shelling one. We really pushed the envelope. The pair of us prided ourselves on being able to stand further apart and cover more ground than anyone else around.
If he beats himself up over lost opportunities with the bat he can console himself with his record of test wins as captain.
The ultimate is winning. At one stage I had the record of playing in the most test victories. Fleming will have long ago overtaken me.
He deserves it. He was the leader of our gang and it'll take some time for his achievements to be overtaken.
* And finally, I tip my hat to Jesse Ryder.
He copped plenty of flak from me, and others, when he was chosen to play England, but he came in and did exceptionally well in Hamilton. He took the criticism, kept his mouth shut and let his bat do his talking.
It's not easy to go out and play in that manner in an ODI. Ryder gave a pretty strong response to those who'd doubted whether he was ready. Good luck to him.By Adam Parore Email Adam