Wellington: Daniel Vettori has hailed Stephen Fleming as 'one of New Zealand's greats' following his decision to retire from Test cricket at the end of next month's series against England.
The New Zealand captain saluted his predecessor after 34-year-old Fleming ended days of speculation by officially confirming he will not play on after the final Test in Napier starting on March 22.
While his record may be inferior to previous New Zealand cricket heroes like Martin Crowe and Sir Richard Hadlee, Vettori believes Fleming still belongs in their company as a player of great influence.
"First and foremost he's going to be remembered as one of New Zealand's greats - leading catcher, most amount of Test matches and he's also been captain for 10 years - so when you bundle all that together you've got an amazing cricketer," said Vettori.
"I think he's been instrumental in a lot of our success over the years through his captaincy, through his performances with the bat and through his fielding."
"He's given me the freedom to be the bowler I wanted to be. We had discussions about what I needed to do as a spin bowler and he saw in me that I had a fair idea of what I needed to do and let me go and I think that's one of the reasons that I've become a decent international bowler."
Fleming, who also played county cricket with Middlesex, Yorkshire and Nottinghamshire, originally planned to finish at the top level following the Test series in England which finishes in early June. He retired from the one-day game last year.
His imminent loss to international cricket was also mourned by England batsman Kevin Pietersen, who believes Fleming will finish his career as one of the best captains of the modern era.
"He's respected around the world, a fantastic cricketer and a fantastic leader and one of the best captains around," said Pietersen.
"He's got the respect around everyone around the world in the way he's pulled a small country together and made them really competitive."
"He's always thinking about how to get you out and always testing and challenging you and I for one love being challenged and playing against the best players - he's the best captain in the world and has been for a long time."