Balance of Power

Published: 2004
Pages: 206
Author: Fleming, Stephen and Boock, Richard
Publisher: Hodder Education
Rating: 3.5 stars

Balance of Power

If a picture tells 1000 words, then the cover photo of Stephen Fleming’s biography Balance of Power says a lot about New Zealand’s current cricket captain.

The dust jacket of this book makes Fleming look more like 007 than a cricketer. Perhaps it’s something to do with his namesake Ian Fleming, the writer of the James Bond series. Whatever the reason, Fleming strikes the reader right from first glance as a man who does not take himself overly seriously.

Written by New Zealand Herald journalist, Richard Boock, this biography intersperses Boock’s writing with paragraphs from Fleming, as well as those closest to him, including his mother Pauline and his partner Kelly. It’s a technique that works well, and consequently is an easy and enjoyable read.

The text is complemented by beautiful colour photographs of Fleming’s early years as well as a pictorial documentation of his triumphs and teammates.

The book examines some of the more controversial aspects of Fleming’s career so far, including the pot smoking incident in South Africa, the Pakistan bombing, the 2002 Players Association conflict and the attempted bribery incident.

If you are a keen fan of New Zealand cricket, this biography will not reveal anything new. Like most mid-career biographies, Fleming stops short of adding anything about these controversies. Rather, it reinforces that Fleming is the likeable captain and front man of the Blackcaps show.

However, in saying this, the chapter on the bombing near the team hotel in Karachi was very moving. Fleming articulates the horror of the situation well: ‘The worst period of the whole experience was, for the next 15 minutes, waiting to see where the rest of the team was. We only had half the team there and we were just sitting down together speechless, trying to fathom what had gone on’.

As far as the pot-smoking incident is concerned, Fleming, Matt Hart and Dion Nash were singled out for public humiliation and punishment after smoking pot at a winery near Paarl during a tour early in his career. Perhaps it was best summed up in the book by the captain at the time, Ken Rutherford. ‘And to think that NZC knew that there were others involved, others who were far more senior and established than those three youngsters’.

This left the reader wondering who the others involved were, and why they did not put their hands up when they saw their young colleagues committing a potentially career-ending move by owning up. As Dion Nash is now a national selector for New Zealand Cricket, any similar touring situation would hopefully be treated with a great deal more sensitivity than this episode.

The chapter on the bookie affair was far more interesting than most in the book as it revealed not just Fleming’s first hand experience with the underworld of illegal betting and match fixing but how he fortunately avoided a question mark over his reputation.

‘The approach to me was typical of how the people involved operated… The problem is, once you accept anything from them, you’re history. They’ll come back and keep hounding you, and if you say you’ve had enough, that you want out, they they’ll threaten to expose you. It’s only then that you realise what a major mistake you’ve made; that you’ve sold your soul, and won’t be getting it back.’

Balance of Power is not sufficiently substantial or insightful to compel you to add it to your cricket book collection. However, as an attractive coffee table book reflecting the cricket career so far of New Zealand’s longest serving captain, it’s worth buying.

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