Flower to play for England, or Martians to land at Lord's?
The England & Wales Cricket Board has played down the prospect of Andy Flower making an emergency debut for his adopted nation against Canada in a fortnight’s time, as an injury-racked team weighs up its options ahead of their World Cup campaign.
“The prospect of a member of the England management staff playing in a World Cup warm-up match is so remote as to be up there with Martians landing at Lord’s,” an ECB spokesman told ESPNcricinfo, after speculation that Flower could be pressed into action given the current absence of five members of England’s 15-man squad.
Tim Bresnan (calf), Graeme Swann (knee), Ajmal Shahzad (hamstring) and Paul Collingwood (back) are continuing their recoveries back in the UK, while Stuart Broad is not yet fit to resume bowling after tearing a stomach muscle back in December.
Of those players, Swann and Collingwood are not expected to be available to play against Canada even if they are passed fit, because they have been granted paternity leave by the ECB for the early stages of the tournament, which means that England could be reduced to 10 available players for the warm-ups against Canada and Pakistan in Dhaka on February 16 and 18.
The ICC’s World Cup Technical Committee has ruled that teams may not call up reserves from outside their designated parties, although in the case of an emergency, members of a team’s management may be permitted to take part in the warm-ups.
England’s back-room staff includes several first-class cricketers, among them the former Victoria seamer David Saker and the fielding coach Richard Halsall, who was once an allrounder for Mashonaland.
But the main man is Flower, a veteran of 63 Tests and 213 ODIs for Zimbabwe, including four World Cup campaigns from 1992 to 2003. These days he is a British citizen, and as the possessor of one of the finest sweep shots in history, he would doubtless be an asset to the team, even at the ripe old age of 42 ...
“Should the need arise, we will reserve the right to appeal to the Technical Committee,” added the ECB spokesman. “But I must stress, we are a long way from having to cross that bridge.”
Andrew Miller is the former UK editor of ESPNcricinfo and now editor of The Cricketer magazine