Former New Zealand cricketer Stephen Fleming has visited India several times — from when he took part in tournaments as the Kiwi captain to when he coached the Chennai and Pune franchises in previous editions of Indian Premier League, after retirement. But the 43-year-old says it’s in his coaching days here that he got to know the real India.
“India has always been a great country to come to, very warm and hospitable. But the last ten years, especially ever since I started coaching, I’ve come to appreciate what India is all about. I’m not staying here for a day or two, but for longer stretches — three or four months. That gave me a chance to know everyone on a deeper level,” he says.
Off the pitch, Fleming has been a part of various initiatives here. The left-handed batsman, who was in Delhi recently as the brand ambassador of New Zealand education, tells us that (former cricketer) Rahul Dravid is his oldest friend in India.
“I have got a long standing relationship with Rahul Dravid. I have known him since 1992 because we played in the youth cup together. Since then our relationship has only grown and he has been very hospitable. Every time I am in Bengaluru, our families have dinner together,” he shares.
Fleming is also good friends with the players he coached during the IPL. “(MS) Dhoni, (Suresh) Raina, (Ravichandran) Ashwin and (Ashish) Nehra have become really good friends. To know them not as competitors but as your own teammates has been a phenomenal experience,” he says.