Andy Flower - biography

John Ward

November 17, 2001

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Full Name: Andrew Flower

Born: 28 April 1968, at Cape Town

Major teams: Zimbabwe (since 1988/89), Mashonaland (1993/94 to date). Present club team: Mutare Sports Club

Known as: Andy Flower. Nickname `Petals'

Batting Style: Left Hand Bat. Wicket-keeper

Bowling Style: Off-breaks or slow-medium right arm

Occupation: Professional Cricketer

First-class debut: ZCU President's XI v Young West Indies, at Harare Sports Club, 21 October 1986

Test Debut: Inaugural Test v India, 1992/93, at Harare Sports Club

ODI Debut: 23 February 1992, v Sri Lanka, at New Plymouth (World Cup)

BIOGRAPHY (updated November 2001)

Andy Flower is perhaps a unique cricketer in the history of Test match cricket. Very few other players have successfully combined the jobs of wicket-keeping and specialist batsman; Andy for most of his career has also been the leading batsman for his country, and in addition has managed to maintain the same high standards while also captaining the side. He has by far the highest batting average, 55, of any regular wicket-keeper in Test match history, and almost all this was achieved while keeping wicket, and much of it while captaining the side as well.

At the time of writing Andy is top of the world ratings for Test batsmen, ahead of such great players as Sachin Tendulkar, Brian Lara and Steve Waugh, after an incredible year of batting achievements during which he scored 1324 runs at an average of 110 between October 2000 and September 2001. He perhaps most resembles Steve Waugh in that he is no batting genius but has applied himself so thoroughly to the skill of batsmanship that he can equal or even excel those with greater talent. The biggest difference is that Andy scores his runs for a consistently weak team, while Waugh has the benefit of playing for the world champions.

Andy enjoyed the benefit of a strong sporting family and especially a father, Bill, who helped and encouraged him in all he did without pushing or applying undue pressure. His family has its roots in Zimbabwe, although he himself was born in Cape Town, but they returned to this country when he was young. However, Bill's work took the family to Johannesburg for a few years, where Andy attended Boskop School, which he represented in a few school cricket matches. When he was about 10 years old they returned to Salisbury (now Harare), where they have lived ever since.

Andy names his father, and his family generally, as his main influence in his cricketing career. Bill did much coaching and playing with Andy and his brothers in their garden, and is largely responsible for their sound techniques.

Andy attended North Park School in the northern suburbs of Harare, and struck prolific batting form in his final year, captaining the side, scoring heavily against most opposing teams and averaging over 100, with many schools unable to dismiss him at all. He had already scored what was probably his first century, during an inter-schools holiday cricket tournament; his team was facing an almost impossible victory target of over 200, but Andy went for it almost single-handed. He was run out for 116 in the dying moments of the game, his team falling just short, but his innings showed the strength of character and determination that was to make him a world-class player. Unfortunately for him, this year of 1980 was the transitional one of Zimbabwe's independence; there was to be no more participation in the South African Schools Weeks and the local authorities had not yet been able to organize a proper Zimbabwe Schools Week, so he was unable to play representative cricket at this level.

He moved on to Vainona High School, and joined the local club, Old Georgians, at 15. He was immediately selected for the club second team, and in fact made his first-team debut when only 15 or 16. He continued to play for the club until 1997/98, as a most successful captain with a young, comparatively inexperienced team in recent years. In his last three years at high school he was selected for the Zimbabwe Schools team, captaining the side in his final two years.

He was by now keeping wicket as well; he always fancied the job and took the opportunity to try his hand at the age of about 15, especially as his off-breaks were bringing him decreasing success against older batsmen. Although he does the job capably and it enables the national side to play him as a virtual all-rounder, his keeping has never quite reached the same high standard as his batting. Although he enjoys the job, he feels it has affected his batting in the long run, leaving him mentally tired and preventing him from batting as high in the order as would be best for him and the team. When he was appointed captain and forced to take on a triple role, he found after two years the burden too heavy to bear, and relinquished the captaincy.

Andy made his first-class debut at the age of 18, for a ZCU President's XI against a strong Young West Indian team, in a match of similar standard to many played against touring teams but usually declared not to be of first-class standard by the administrators of the visiting country, as they had the right to rule on status. The West Indies, however, were more liberal in their views and so this match was adjudged first-class. He held on with great determination for a slow 13, resisting manfully the pace of Eldine Baptiste in particular. He played as wicketkeeper, but did not effect any dismissals.

When he left school, Andy worked briefly as an accounts clerk in the finance department of Anglo American, but hoped to be able to play cricket overseas. After speaking to Alwyn Pichanick, then president of the Zimbabwe Cricket Union, he received an offer to play for Barnt Green. This club, in the Birmingham League, has employed several Zimbabwean professionals in recent years. Andy has since spent many of his Zimbabwean winters playing overseas; he has also played for West Bromwich Dartmouth, for whom he broke a league record by scoring 225 not out, for Heywood (both as amateur and professional) in the Central Lancashire League, and for Voorburg Cricket Club in The Hague, Holland.

At first-class level, he first played for the full national side against Lancashire, playing as a batsman, but soon took over the gloves relinquished by Dave Houghton and has kept his place ever since. He has played in every Test match that Zimbabwe has played, and also every one-day international since his debut in the 1991/92 World Cup, except for the period of June and July 2000 when his unbroken spell of 224 international matches came to an end with a hand injury sustained during Zimbabwe's Test victory against India. His run output gradually increased with experience; his maiden century came for a Young Zimbabwe XI against Pakistan B, and perhaps he was again fortunate that this match was declared first-class, unlike similar matches played against similar teams from other countries.

His first century in the national side came on his official one-day international debut, against Sri Lanka in the first World Cup match of 1992. Opening the batting, as he often used to do with great success in one-day matches, he batted throughout the innings for a magnificent unbeaten 115, becoming only the third batsman ever to score a century on his one-day debut. It was a major disappointment that this fine innings, although earning him the Man of the Match award, did not bring victory for his team.

Shortly after came Zimbabwe's inaugural Test, against India. It was now, Andy feels, that he had really established himself as a first-class cricketer. Batting at number seven after a night-watchman was used, Andy added to the deeds of those higher in the order by scoring 59, which he followed with 81 in his next Test, against New Zealand. But he really drew attention to himself on the international scene with a remarkable match double of 115 and 62 not out against India at Delhi. His first-innings century almost saved Zimbabwe from following on, and match reports suggested he looked as if he could have batted forever, but for an uncharacteristically wild stroke that cost him his wicket.

Andy was appointed captain in succession to Dave Houghton for Zimbabwe's next series, in Pakistan the following year. He led a young, inexperienced team well, and they proved competitive against opponents of the calibre of Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis. Andy himself scored two useful sixties, but the innings he rates as his best was his 156 against Pakistan at Harare Sports Club in 1994/95, in the match which brought Zimbabwe their first Test victory.

Zimbabwe were struggling at 42 for three against Wasim Akram and his allies, who were doing virtually everything with the ball except make it talk, when Andy joined his brother Grant at the wicket. While Grant kept his end intact, Andy seized the initiative, attacking the bowlers with some fine strokes, especially his favourite cover drive and cut. Both were still there at the close, and the fraternal partnership continued to 269, breaking the record of Ian and Greg Chappell for brothers in Test cricket. Zimbabwe went on to win the match by an innings. As captain, Andy felt this was his proudest moment.

Andy continued to maintain a Test average of almost 50, but he felt under increasing pressure with his triple burden of captain, leading batsman and wicketkeeper. After a stressful World Cup campaign in the Indian subcontinent, when his own form faltered, he found he was no longer enjoying his cricket. Rather than present an ultimatum to the selectors by refusing to keep wicket any longer, he resigned the captaincy. Relieved of this burden, he started enjoying his cricket once again and was quite happy to continue indefinitely in the ranks, batting and keeping wicket. Looking back on his time as captain, Andy feels that he would have changed a few things that he did, and been a little harder in some respects. As it was, there was a feeling in some quarters that he was a little too hard as captain, in contrast to his successor Alistair Campbell's more relaxed approach. But he feels he learned a lot during his three-year tenure and would have done certain things differently in retrospect. His second period as captain showed increased maturity and an even greater ability to handle every aspect of his game on the field.

Andy's batting form in Sri Lanka during the 1996/97 series was disappointing, but he picked up again in Pakistan. It took him a while to return to his best form, and it was force of will rather than top form which brought him an invaluable Test century against England in Bulawayo. He did little with the bat in the triangular series in South Africa, but began to strike form again under difficult conditions in Sharjah. He was happy with his wicket-keeping, but found his batting form disappointing, partly due to a couple of minor technical problems which had crept in.

He spent the 1997 English season coaching the Oxford University team, but had time for only a few games himself, including a first-class match for MCC against the Pakistan A tourists. The team won one of its first-class matches, against Glamorgan, which Andy considers to have been quite an achievement; they also played well in a very good University match against Cambridge at Lord's. This was a particularly good record in view of the fact that they only had one player returning to the team from the previous season, a lack of experience that was unprecedented.

The comparative break appeared to do him good, as he began the 1997/98 season in superb form. In the opening Logan Cup match against Mashonaland A he scored his first double-century in first-class cricket, and followed it up with another century against Matabeleland, enabling him to face New Zealand with great confidence. He also changed clubs, moving to Universals, feeling that a change would be good and also in response to a good financial offer. He also felt that the personnel at Old Georgians has changed so much that he now had more of his friends at Universals. At the start of the following season, though, and with the blessing of Universals, he moved over to assist the young second-league black club Winstonians, consisting mainly of boys from Churchill High School, to lend his experience to the development of black players in Zimbabwe.

In view of his early-season form and his skill against the new ball, Andy was promoted to number three in the batting order against New Zealand. However, he surprisingly failed to put together a major innings against them, his best being 44 in the final one-day international. In this match he returned to open the innings again with Grant, in face of a New Zealand total of 294 for seven. He scored 44 off 45 balls before he was run out, virtually ending Zimbabwe's slim hopes of victory. Otherwise he was, he feels, too anxious to score quickly and paid the penalty.

He continued to open in the Three Nations tournament in Kenya, against the home side and Bangladesh. Runs came freely now, and his successive scores of 81, 72, 70, 66, 79 and 7 won him the Man of the Series award. In three matches he and Grant put together century partnerships and Zimbabwe won all their six games with reasonable ease. He felt, though, that he gave his wicket away too often when he should have gone on to record a century; he still hasn't added, in more than 100 matches, to the one-day international hundred he made on his debut.

He enjoyed a good tour of Sri Lanka with the bat, much better than his previous tour, which he called a nightmare. He puts it down to greater experience and also developing the ability to play the world-class spinners on turning pitches. His superb fighting century in the Second Test should have been rewarded with Zimbabwe's second Test victory, but a series of poor umpiring decisions allowed Sri Lanka instead to claim an undeserved victory. In the one-day series it had been planned that he should continue to open the batting, but this was changed, as it was felt that it would be better to use his skill against the spinners in the middle order. However he failed in the first two matches before scoring a good 68 in the third.

The team moved on to New Zealand, its morale shattered after the bitter disappointment of the Second Test, and Andy began the one-day series with a good 60; his form faltered after that, though, and disappointed him. He failed in the First Test, but scored two fine fifties in the Second in difficult circumstances with the ball seaming and swinging all over the place. Zimbabwe still lost both Tests heavily, though.

The team returned to Zimbabwe with the depression of the two tours still hanging over the players. They were revived by Grant Flower's superb 156 not out against Pakistan, assisted by 44 from Andy. In the second innings Zimbabwe were reeling at 19 for three when Andy joined Murray Goodwin, with Waqar Younis rampant in helpful conditions. The two batsmen fought hard to see off Waqar, who later left the field with an injury, and then consolidated against a weakened attack which also lacked Wasim Akram. They both scored centuries, and their unbroken partnership of 277 was a new record for any Zimbabwean wicket in Test cricket; Andy of course participated with Grant in the previous record of 269. Andy was overshadowed by Murray on this occasion, losing his timing with his score on 70. But he worked it through, did not try to force the pace, and was eventually rewarded with his century. In the Second Test he again shared a valuable partnership with Goodwin, but this time they were unable to bat long enough to take Zimbabwe to safety. He did little in the two one-day matches that followed.

The long season finished with a triangular tournament in India, with Australia also participating. It was notable for Zimbabwe losing all four matches by small margins and winning much praise from all who watched them. Again Andy was not in good enough batting form to do well until the final match, when he scored a superb 73 to take Zimbabwe to within sight of the large Indian total. When he got out, though, the middle order collapsed and another match was narrowly lost.

He spent the off-season doing fitness training and a lot of speed work in order to improve his reactions behind the stumps, and certainly he was to appear a more agile keeper during the 1998/99 season. He admits he is not a brilliant keeper, but is satisfied that he does a good job, while at the same time seeking ways to improve his ability.

He played some good `small' innings against the Indian tourists without any outstanding feats. In the Test match he stood firm in the second innings against the spin of Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh while the lower order collapsed about him; he was stranded on 41 not out and it seemed that the fragility of the later batting had cost Zimbabwe their chance of victory. But superb bowling and fielding by the Zimbabweans dismissed the Indians a second time and won the team a long-overdue second Test victory.

When Zimbabwe went to Bangladesh for the mini World Cup, Andy enjoyed a good innings of 77 against New Zealand, including a century partnership with his good friend Alistair Campbell, only for New Zealand to snatch the match from their grasp off the last ball. In Sharjah he was not happy with his batting; he played a fine innings of 95 against Sri Lanka, but tended to lose his wicket between 10 and 20.

Things began to come right on the tour to Pakistan, as he scored a good 61 in the third one-day international. In the First Test he was yorked first ball by Waqar, an unusual occurrence for he has notably few ducks or bowled dismissals in his Test career, but in the second innings he hit the winning boundary to third man and managed to seize a stump.

As usual he batted consistently well against the weaker attacks of Kenya and Bangladesh in the triangular tournament in Dhaka, beginning with three successive fifties. Unfortunately he was unable to carry this consistency into the World Cup, although beginning quite well and scoring an invaluable 68 not out against India. He had a nightmare experience in the Super Six section, managing just four runs in the three matches, and as much as anything else it was the failure of both Andy and Grant that led to the disappointing Zimbabwean performances here.

Zimbabwe's poor team form continued during the 1999/2000 season, and after two successive heavy Test defeats, as well as some poor one-day results, Alistair Campbell, also plagued by poor batting form, resigned as captain. The Zimbabwe Cricket Union asked Andy to step into the breach at short notice and, reluctantly at first, he agreed to do so in a caretaker role; the position would be reviewed at the end of 1999. He soon found himself taking a liking to the job, despite some more poor team results, and by the end of the year expressed his willingness to continue as captain indefinitely. He was subsequently reappointed for the triangular tournament in South Africa and the tours to West Indies and England.

He also came into some magnificent batting form at a time when the other leading players, notably Campbell and his brother Grant, were going through very lean times, and virtually carried his team's batting. He failed against South Africa in Harare, his first Test back in control, but found his best form against Sri Lanka. His 86 was the highest score for Zimbabwe in the First Test, which was rained off, but his superb twin innings of 74 and 129 in the Second Test failed to stave off defeat; he scored nearly half his team's total in both innings. An unbeaten 70 helped to save the Third Test.

He did not maintain the same consistency in one-day cricket, although in the triangular tournament in South Africa his superb 59 led the way to a two-wicket victory over the hosts when defeat had looked inevitable. In West Indies his monumental 113 not out in the First Test at Port-of-Spain was the only score of over 50 in the match, yet so poorly did his team-mates support him that Zimbabwe went down to defeat; Andy was unable to reproduce his form in the second innings which saw Zimbabwe bowled out for 63 when facing a target of 99. In the Second Test his partnership with Murray Goodwin led to a Zimbabwean total of 308, but when he failed in the second innings so did his team.

He did not shine in the Tests in England, but in the triangular tournament he played vital innings in the first two matches that contributed to victories over West Indies and England. Zimbabwe reached the final against England, but continued their regular habit of losing the toss when it really mattered, were put in to bat and Andy's 48, after his team were 31 for four, could only lead to respectability without a real hope of victory.

This was his last match as captain, as on his return to Zimbabwe he learned that he had been sacked. Andy has always been strong-minded, although generally cloaking his iron fist inside a velvet glove, and he has never been afraid to speak out or take action where he considers it necessary. This put him on a collision course with ZCU, and his sacking left him hurt.

He did not let it affect his form on the field. After a comparatively lean home series against New Zealand in September 2000, he began his prolific run of form in India. Scores of 183 not out and 70, top score both times, failed to save Zimbabwe from defeat in the First Test at Delhi, but at Nagpur, after his team had been forced to follow on, he batted over nine hours for his first Test double-century, 232 not out, that took Zimbabwe to a total of over 500 and a draw.

He continued to bat with remarkable consistency without any major scores for the rest of the season, equalling Everton Weekes' world record of seven successive Test match fifties before being run out for 23 in his eighth. He eventually made it nine in ten innings, and scored the winning runs in his team's home victory over India, although in that innings he was carrying the hand injury that forced him out of the Zimbabwean team for the first time.

Despite occasional discomfort from his hand, three months later he was batting better than ever against South Africa, the second-ranked team in world cricket and one against which he had enjoyed little success in the past. Typically, this made Andy more determined to succeed than ever, and in the First Test in Harare, with support from only one other specialist batsman in both innings, he scored twin centuries, 142 and 199 not out, left stranded by a dubious lbw decision against his partner.

These were his tenth and eleventh Test centuries, and there has not been an easy one among them. All were scored with Zimbabwe either in trouble, or engaged in a tight struggle for supremacy. In this match he scored more than half his team's total runs, only the second batsman in Test history to do so, after South African Jimmy Sinclair more than 100 years earlier. He failed to save Zimbabwe from defeat, but the following week played his part in ensuring a draw for his team in the rain-damaged Bulawayo Test, batting through a tense final hour as South Africa sought victory.

Mental strength and hard work are at the core of Andy's success, together with a sound technique and the wisdom that comes from experience and working out how to apply it. At the age of 33 he probably still has several years' cricket left in him, although the ongoing battles with administration continue and may well finally end his career earlier than would otherwise be necessary. His future may well be as a specialist batsman, as in 2002 Tatenda Taibu will be able to play regularly and may be selected as Test keeper, but Andy himself is keen to continue an exhausting double role. Even now he is still working at improving his keeping.

Andy regards Wasim Akram, followed by Shane Warne, as the most difficult bowlers he has faced so far in his career. He also plays tennis and squash, and played rugby and hockey while at school. He has no specific hobbies outside the sporting world, but enjoys reading. He would like to see day-night cricket introduced to Zimbabwe, as he has always enjoyed this aspect of the game. He is concerned that Zimbabwean players need more threeor four-day domestic cricket and that provincial teams should be strengthened, perhaps with the inclusion of overseas players.

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