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Last Updated:  Friday, 14 March, 2003, 11:29 GMT
Flower: A true all-rounder
By Martin Gough

Andy Flower hooks
Flower has starred for Zimbabwe since 1990
Andy Flower could easily have followed the lead of compatriot Graeme Hick and played cricket for England, but instead he chose a far more challenging course.

Flower took Hick's path into English cricket, debuting in the Birmingham League four years after the mercurial batsman from Harare, in 1988.

He has since starred in the Lancashire League, coached Oxford University and will spend the first part of his international retirement playing a second year of county cricket with Essex.

But by the time Hick - part of Zimbabwe's 1983 World Cup campaign as a 17-year-old - qualified to play for his adopted country in 1991, Flower had already played a starring role for Zimbabwe.

And from leading them to the ICC Trophy in 1990 to bowing out of the international game against Sri Lanka on Saturday, he has been one of his country's leading lights.

Zimbabwe have relied so heavily on Flower that for 16 Tests, in two separate spells, he has held the triple role of leading batsman, wicket-keeper and captain.

He played in every one of the country's 172 one-day internationals and 52 Tests from their inaugural match at the highest level in 1992 until breaking his thumb in 2001.

FLOWER'S CAREER STATS
Flower in Test action
Tests:
63 caps, 4794 runs at 51.54
151 catches, 9 stumpings
ODIs:
213 caps, 6786 runs at 35.34
141 catches, 32 stumpings

"He is the whole package, from his own mental approach and professional preparation for the game to the culture he brings to the dressing-room," says Essex coach and former England captain Graham Gooch.

"He takes time to talk to the younger players and acts as a role model."

Perhaps the biggest obvious difference between Flower and his predecessor is the mental approach to the game.

Where Hick has been rattled by the mind games of opponents at Test level, Flower has displayed a grittiness that ensures his success whatever the odds.

This has been an ideal attribute to deal with the labyrinthine politics of Zimbabwean cricket.

But Flower is not just a big fish in a small pond.

To his 6,748 one-day international runs, add 4,794 runs at Test level, and 151 dismissals in 55 Tests with the gloves.

Only four men currently playing Test cricket - Adam Gilchrist and Matthew Hayden of Australia and India's Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid - average more than his 51.54.

He hit an unbeaten 232 against India in Nagpur in November 2000 - the highest-ever score by a wicket-keeper.

As a batsman he ranks up with the best, and he keeps wicket too so he has to be considered an al-rounder
Graham Gooch

And he returned from that thumb injury to hit 142 and 199 not out against South Africa - the first keeper to score two centuries in a Test.

"There are more flamboyant players and more stylish players," said Gooch.

"But he offers so much to a team as a left-hander in the middle order and someone who scores at a run-a-ball in one-day cricket.

"As a batsman he ranks up with the best, and he keeps wicket too so he has to be considered an all-rounder."

However, as Wisden recognised when he was named one of its five cricketers of 2002, Flower is something of a "patron saint of lost causes".

He led Zimbabwe to their first Test victory over Pakistan, at Harare in 1995, but wins since then have been few and far between.

And despite his efforts in coloured kit, Zimbabwe's one-day performances have been on a downward trajectory since their impressive showing in the 1999 World Cup.

So why did the Cape Town-born Flower not follow the path from southern Africa to English qualification that so many successful cricketers have taken?

For Gooch it is not even an issue.

"If you asked me why I played for England I'd say it's because I'm proud to be English and I'm sure Andy feels the same way," said Gooch.

"He loves his country - he showed that with his protest last month.

"Those are the cards he's been dealt and he has got on and played them."



Links to more Zimbabwe stories


 

WATCH AND LISTEN
Zimbabwe's Andy Flower
"I've made the decision and I have to move on now"



SEE ALSO
Flower to stand down
11 Mar 03 |  Zimbabwe
Fears for Zimbabwe cricket
13 Mar 03 |  Zimbabwe
Have Your Say on Zimbabwe
04 Jan 03 |  Have Your Say
Zimbabwe struggle to keep pace
25 Feb 03 |  Team Pages


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