Best New Zealand Cricket Captains of All Time

New Zealand’s international cricket team has improved considerably in the last 25 years. From being bottom of the ICC rankings, they have climbed the tables and are now competitive in all formats. Here are some of their best captains of all time.

Who is the Most Successful NZ Cricket Captain?

The most successful New Zealand cricket captain in history is Stephen Fleming. He took over at a time when the team were struggling at the bottom of the ICC world rankings and he transformed the side during his reign.

Fleming captained New Zealand for more than ten years. He skippered in 303 games in all formats, winning 128, drawing 40 and losing 135.

Top 8 New Zealand National Cricket Captains

Stephen Fleming

His statistics are impressive, but they don’t quite tell the full story of Stephen Fleming’s time in charge. He took on the captaincy role at the age of just 24 after the side had slumped to the bottom of the world rankings under Lee Germon.

More than ten years later, New Zealand were competing strongly in all formats and Fleming had laid the groundwork for the sides that would subsequently reach finals of World Cups.

Stephen Fleming, 2003, New Zealand

Geoff Howarth

He was in charge of the New Zealand team from 1979 to 1985 and the side recorded some memorable victories in that time. Geoff Howarth achieved the best win-loss ratio of any New Zealand captain based on a minimum criteria of ten matches in charge.

In that respect, it could even be said that he is the best of all the Kiwi skippers, but Stephen Fleming has the edge after dragging his team up from such a poor standing in the ICC rankings.

For the record, Geoff Howarth led New Zealand in 90 matches. He won 42, drew 15 and lost 33.

Kane Williamson

He inherited a strong Kiwi squad from Brendon McCullum and quietly went about building on the good work carried out by his successor. Kane Williamson will largely be remembered as one of his country’s best ever batters, but he did a decent job as skipper too.

Between 2016 and 2022, Kane Williamson captained New Zealand in 38 tests, winning 22, drawing eight and losing eight. In the two limited overs formats, he took charge for 142 games, winning 71 and losing 64, while there have been seven additional ties or no results in that time.

Kane Williamson, Getty

Ross Taylor

The Kiwis seemed to follow a pattern of putting their best players in charge, and this was certainly the case with Ross Taylor.

He finished his career as the leading run scorer for New Zealand, and he enjoyed some success as captain of the national team.

He took over in 2010 and would skipper the side in all three formats. In 14 tests, Taylor won four, lost eight and drew two for a win percentage of just 28.57.

New Zealand were more of a force in limited overs cricket at this time. Ross Taylor skippered in 33 games across two formats. He won 12, lost 18 and there were three ties or no results.

Ross Taylor
Ross Taylor, Getty

Brendon McCullum

He’s perceived to be the best captain since Stephen Fleming retired and Brendon McCullum liked to lead from the front. He helped to transform the limited overs team with his power hitting and McCullum would become the first Kiwi to pass 300 in a test match innings.

As skipper, he won almost half of the games when he was in charge. There were 60 victories in 121 matches overall. Included in that list are 47 defeats plus 14 draws, ties or no results.

Brendon McCullum
Brendon McCullum

Daniel Vettori

Left arm spinner Daniel Vettori was the first man to take over from Stephen Fleming on a long term basis, and he had a tough act to follow. He coped well and his own form with both bat and ball continued to shine.

Vettori would eventually lead New Zealand in 142 matches between 2004 and 2011. It was a lengthy spell which produced 60 wins, 62 defeats and 20 draws, ties or no results.

Daniel Vettori
Daniel Vettori

Martin Crowe

Martin Crowe’s overall numbers as captain don’t really do him justice. He was a great reader of the game and is one of a few players credited with revolutionizing One Day Cricket. The all-out attack mode in the opening overs was often practised by New Zealand, along with the occasional use of a pinch hitter.

As for those statistics, Crowe stepped down after leading the Kiwis in 16 tests and 44 One Day Internationals between 1990 and 1994. New Zealand won 23 of those games, while there were 31 defeats, plus six draws, ties or no results.

Martin Crowe
Martin Crowe

Tim Southee

Fast bowler Tim Southee has only just taken over the role as New Zealand’s test captain after Kane Williamson decided to step down. It’s early days, but the initial signs are positive as Southee looks to guide his team into 2023 and beyond.

The seamer had previously captained the Kiwis as a temporary stand-in for Williamson, so it was no surprise that he assumed the test job on a full time basis in 2023. At the end of that year’s test series between New Zealand and England, he has skipped four red ball games with one wins, one loss and two draws.

In limited overs cricket, Southee has so far been in charge for 21 games. He lost his only One Day International as skipper but, in T20i matches, the seamer has led the Kiwis to 12 wins, six defeats and two tied matches.

Tim Southee, Getty

Final Thoughts

They were the first winners of the ICC World Test Championship and they have also appeared in three World Cup finals across two limited overs formats since 2015. New Zealand are no longer a pushover and that’s due, in no small part, to the work of the men on this list.

It’s probably no coincidence that these skippers are also some of the best players in New Zealand cricket. They have led from the front and inspired their teams to become one of the strongest forces in the game.