A day after coaching Chennai Super Kings to their fourth IPL title, Stephen Fleming joined the New Zealand coaching staff for a short gig in the lead-up to the T20 World Cup in the UAE. Fleming has established himself as a high-profile coach in franchise T20 cricket, having had stints in the IPL (Super Kings) and BBL (Melbourne Stars) among other franchise leagues, but this is his first official coaching role with New Zealand since his retirement in 2008.
Fleming had ruled out international coaching back in 2012, but now he will assist Gary Stead (head coach), Luke Ronchi (batting coach), Shane Jurgensen (bowling coach), Shane Bond (who will work specifically with the spinners) in the New Zealand backroom during their warm-ups before he heads back home to serve his Managed Isolation Quarantine (MIQ). As per government rules, all those arriving in New Zealand are required to undergo 14 days of managed isolation in hotel rooms. However, there are various eligibility criteria to be met for individuals or groups to be granted MIQ.
"There's a little bit of time before my MIQ spot and it's just a great opportunity," Fleming told NZC's in-house media team in Dubai. "We've talked for a while about sharing ideas and coming into the camp and watching these players who I'm a big fan of. [I'm] very lucky to have that opportunity.
"I'm doing five days now pre-World Cup and talk about the conditions in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, which we [Super Kings] have been playing in, and also cast an eye over and get some ideas back from him [Stead]. So, it's a great opportunity, very proud to get the Black Caps kit back on as well. So, straight into it and will be looking forward to it."
Having recently been around the venues in the UAE, Fleming was particularly eager to work with Stead and pass his inputs to the New Zealand squad.
"The T20 is what I've had my head into for so long now," Fleming said. "With the Black Caps performing well and the World Cup around the corner, to share some of those experiences and get a bit closer to some of these guys... From coaching the best players around the world you learn some lessons. So, it's just passing on the knowledge and being a fan and being around [the team]. I'm looking forward to it. It's a good coaching group. There's a lot of experience there and I'll get some stuff come back my way as well. So, it's a win-win."
Fleming also delivered a glowing endorsement of New Zealand's depth and urged them to adjust their games to the slow, low conditions in the UAE.
"It's a good squad," he said. "There's a lot of talent, we've never had as much talent as this within New Zealand cricket, so getting the right balance and the way you want to play the game is very important. But the skill set, and what these guys put out and entertain us with, is very high.
"Coming to grips with these conditions will be the challenge in warm-up games, and there's a couple of key games first up. So dealing with pressure and starting the tournament well, I think, is a priority."
Spin-bowling allrounder Mitchell Santner was with Fleming at Super Kings but didn't get a game in the IPL. However, he shook off the rust on a hot Saturday afternoon, picking up a wicket in New Zealand's six-run warm-up victory against Netherlands at the ICC Academy in Dubai. He is hoping to tap into Fleming's experience further in the New Zealand backroom.
"I've had enough of him actually (laughs)," Santner said of Fleming. "No, he's obviously had a wealth of experience, he's been at Chennai [Super Kings] for 14 years, I think, and he has seen a lot of T20 cricket. I think trying to bring some of those characteristics that he has got and he has obviously got a pretty good record as a coach in franchise cricket, so he'll bring in some good stuff."
New Zealand will play two more warm-up games against Australia and England before they face Pakistan in the main tournament in Sharjah on October 26.