A senior statesman

Published : Jul 14, 2001 00:00 IST


ANDY FLOWER is a player's man. And his teammates regard him their leader. He stood up for them and lost his captaincy. In the process, he regained his batting form and has maintained it with amazing consistency.

Nine years of international cricket has placed Andy among the best, certainly the best to have emerged from Zimbabwe. With an average of 50-plus in Test cricket, he stands tall among contemporary batsmen.

Andy's humility places him in a special category. Easily approachable, he spoke his mind on various issues concerning Zimbabwe cricket in this interview in Harare.


Question: How do you view the state of Zimbabwe cricket and your role in it now that the team is going through troubled times despite the fact that you beat India in a Test for the second time?

Answer: Well, Zimbabwe cricket has come a long way since we made our Test debut in 1992. Our cricket is stronger now, there's no doubt about that. I strongly believe that domestic cricket has to become stronger for the national side to become stronger. What can I say of my role in it? I'm the oldest in the side now. I think I've a role to play in hopefully passing off some of the experience that I've gained over the years touring around the world to the players and the administrators. Our administration is a young one as well. Some of the knowledge that the players have gained can be used in that forum.

What do you attribute this lack of consistency in Zimbabwe cricket to?

You're right about the lack of consistency. One of the problems we've had is that we've had a lot of distractions in the game recently. When I say recently I mean the last two years when the players were being constantly bombarded with things other than merely improving their game or improving the team's performance. It's always pay issues, administrative issues where the players shouldn't be getting involved at all. It's a pity they have to because some of their concerns are not being looked at.

What are the issues then?

There are selection issues, development issues, very touchy subjects with the players. Some of those distractions don't help the players at all. I think a lot of the inconsistency is because the players don't grow up playing hard domestic cricket. And therefore when they come against good international sides they sometimes can't perform consistently. Sometimes our techniques are found wanting. There's no doubt about it. Some of our batsmen don't have the technique, to put it straight. The same goes for the bowlers. They've to learn a lot. I think the balance is missing at times. Attack and accuracy in bowling and balance between attack and defence in batting. If you're not going to find those balances and don't get the basics right, we'll continue to be found wanting.

Do you have the solutions for the problems?

Long term solutions are not being found. The players are constantly unhappy about certain things and those problems are not being solved at all. The people have looked at Alistair and I certainly am being quite forward in our negotiations with the ZCU. And I'm not just talking of the pay dispute but a lot of other things that make the players comfortable about their livelihood. Some people have looked at me as a trouble maker. That's not true. I honestly believe that we've done everything with the right intention in our minds. We've found it so frustrating for years. I still think the management has to get it right.

Are you recommending that players be involved in administration?

I'm not saying that players make great administrators at all. I think the communication between the players and the administration is important and has been so for a long time. Maybe the new proposed structure of the cricket union might help. It makes more people accountable and makes it more professional when dealing with the relations between the Board and the players.

How does a Zimbabwean cricketer compare with players from other countries in terms of payment and recognition?

Right down at the bottom, without a doubt. Right down at the bottom. Certainly we shouldn't be paid anywhere near like the guys at the top because we are not as good as them. But importantly these guys are professional cricketers and making a living by playing the game, paying for their mortgages and feeding their children. Looking to save their future, they have to be looked after properly. But to make them more comfortable, these distractions have to stop immediately. Ultimately it'll increase the Zimbabwean cricket structure generally. It'll also encourage more young cricketers to take up the game as a good, paying profession. They can make a lucrative career out of it.

Do you see cricket as a binding factor in the prevailing situation in Zimbabwe?

Without a doubt. Definitely. We as players have an excellent relationship with the blacks, whites and the Asians. And there aren't any racial problems. In fact it's nice having a diverse set of characters and people in the change room. We've been quite lucky in this regard. You saw that in the Test match. The whole eastern side of the ground was full of enthusiastic black schoolkids. It was absolutely brilliant for everyone to have been playing in that atmosphere. We got men in the side like Heath Streak, who speaks fluent Ndebele (language spoken in Bulawayo) and Andy Blignaut who speaks fluent Shona (language spoken in Harare). And then we have Henry Olonga who can speak neither of those languages. He speaks English and in some cases better than the Englishmen. And those sort of people should be used for marketing the game and as public relations vehicles by the cricket union. They would be powerful in influencing the cricket society and the Zimbabwean society too.

Where does your motivation come from? Does it come from the streak to be a rebel?

I think I've possibly been rebellious in the past but sometimes you have to stand for what you believe in. And I don't see myself rebellious for doing the wrong things. I think my motives have always been good and I always think good for Zimbabwe cricket.

Do you believe cricket has given what was due to you? Have you received the recognition you deserved?

I'm not sure about that. I don't get to know the public reactions. I don't know what people think of me. I'm one of the players and sometimes I deliberately don't read or watch TV programmes or don't watch cricket programmes because I get so much of it anyway in my everyday life. I'm not sure if I'm in a position to say whether I've got the recognition I deserved or not.

What about your fellow cricketers and what about the game? Have they been nice?

Certainly not. Not in terms of financial terms at all. We don't have financial security as Zimbabwean cricketers at all. But I think the feedback I've had from the Zimbabwean public is good. There's no doubt that we don't get viewed in the same way as players from other countries. There's no doubt about that. That's no secret to anyone. It's just one of those things and of those things we've to live with as a Zimbabwean cricketer.

Does it hurt you?

It doesn't really hurt me, to be honest. I think I'm practical enough to just realise that's the way it is in Zimbabwe.

You are a senior statesman in world cricket and how do you look ahead?

At the moment I'm enjoying it really. It sounds nice to be called a senior statesman. I've the motivation to carry on playing at the highest level. You don't know what's round the corner and what's going to happen. I'm injured for the first time in my career and it's a gentle reminder that the clock is always ticking. As long as I can play and I've the motivation to play I want to do it. Once I retire I won't come back.

What should the ZCU do to improve the atmosphere?

An open and honest communication is the basis on which one can have a happy relationship between people. That's the main thing.

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