A man who will lead by example
Despite his limited experience at the highest level, Andy Flower is widely expected to be rubber-stamped as England's head coach on Wednesday. To determine whether he is up to the role, Cricinfo sought the opinions of the men who know him best - his former colleagues from his playing days at Zimbabwe. The verdict is unanimously positive.
How did you rate Flower's leadership during his playing career?
Geoff Marsh - former national coach: I thought he was fantastic. He is a real thinker on the game, a man dedicated to the fundamentals of cricket. When I was coaching Zimbabwe, he was the ultimate professional player. It was a really tough time for Zimbabwe at the time, and particularly tough for Andy because of his high level of professionalism. But he gritted his teeth and pushed on through a lot of those hard times.
Murray Goodwin - middle-order batsman: The one thing about Andy is that he's got extremely high standards. He had that when he was a player and it showed in his consistency. He was very methodical and covered all the bases, making sure he prepared himself perfectly for each situation. Even when he wasn't captaining the team he would lead by example.
Henry Olonga - opening bowler: Most people who played under Andy would say he was a very strong leader, very stern, and that he had high standards which he expected from his players. He led from the front in everything he did - for a time when he was captain he was keeping wicket and opening the batting in one-dayers. That changed later on, but for a time he wore all those caps impressively. Personality wise, he kept the right kind of distance between himself and the players, as all captains need to do
Heath Streak - former captain: Just by virtue of what he did on the field he had the respect of all his peers. He has always been a great thinker of the game and that helped make him a natural leader. When he took over the captaincy there was no doubting how highly he was respected by the players. He basically lived cricket and he loved the game.
What specifically were the traits that defined Flower as a leader?
GM: His knowledge of the game, his ability to work with other players and the respect they held for him. He commanded an enormous amount of respect from all the players, and that came from how hard he worked in all areas of his game. He was the ultimate leader by example, and even though things around him in Zimbabwe cricket might not have been great at the time, he was a man the other players could look up to.
MG: Andy used to keep a lot to himself when we played together. He got very frustrated when guys didn't perform to their standards and let themselves down. I respected that part of his game because he had real high standards for himself and I think he expects other guys to have the same levels. When they don't reach them he gets very frustrated and I guess the biggest thing I observed from Andy was the way he approached his cricket.
HO: Mental and physical fitness were massive parts of his game. Andy and his brother Grant would put in extra work outside of the regular sessions, and they would often stay for hours, way beyond the call of duty. I wouldn't suggest that he enforced that same ethos on his players, but it was clear from his leadership-by-example that he earned his success by putting in these hard yards. It was definitely in his blood to do extra work on his fitness, and his skills
HS: He was a perfectionist. His self-discipline was second to none. He really pushed himself harder and practised longer than anyone. He always put in the extra work.
Anecdotally, what were your most vivid recollections of Flower's leadership in action?
GM: When I was coaching Zimbabwe, Heath Streak, not Andy, was the captain. He obviously had his problems with some of the politics around, but that is not something I want to focus on. But just because Andy wasn't captain, that didn't mean he wasn't a leader. No one practised harder than Andy, and he provided a fantastic example for the others to follow. He rose to an incredibly high level as a player despite the fact that Zimbabwe were not exposed to a whole lot of top-level cricket. If, for example, he was playing for Australia and batting alongside the Adam Gilchrists, Ricky Pontings and Steve Waughs, he could have gone to another level, which is remarkable in itself.
MG: It's difficult to say. There were times when he would make a brilliant hundred for Zimbabwe, but I think where he really showed his excellent contribution was more in the field with the gloves. The way he marshalled the team and put forward his ideas on planning and strategising was where it stood out for me. His batting took care of itself because he was a quality player. I just enjoyed the way he thought about the game and how he tried to work out the opposition, how to plan fields to bring down their batsmen.
HO: The most obvious example would have to be our first Test victory against Pakistan in 1994-95. Andy he led from the front with the bat with 156, he kept wicket throughout as well, he was captaining, and if it wasn't the highlight of his career, it certainly was of mine. I only experienced his captaincy for maybe a couple of years, but that match was probably our greatest success.
HS: There were so many. I played with him for a long time. The black armband thing was different for many reasons, but from a purely cricketing perspective, I was always impressed by the way he stood out with his batting. No matter who we were playing, or what the situation was in the game, he was the guy who was always prepared to stand up to the best in the world and take them on. He was respected enormously for that.
Will these traits necessarily carry over to coaching?
GM: I always thought he would follow the coaching path. I know what he has been through, and he couldn't not have made it without tremendous mental strength and a passion for the game. These are things, I think, that will make him an even better coach than he was a player or captain. With everything he brings to the table, and all England has to offer, I think it is a good match.
MG: Andy's got coaching experience behind him. For one he's done a lot of coaching throughout his life. He was doing it while still playing for Essex and has been involved with the ECB at the centre of excellence. It's not as though he has just come straight out of playing so I don't see him having any problems. And he already knows the team well, too.
HO: Sometimes talented captains can be poor on man-management because they can't understand why everyone else can't play like they do, but Andy - certainly since he retired from international cricket - has changed in many areas. I think moving to England has chilled him out, he's matured as a person and become more of a family man, and I think he's got a lot to offer. Five years ago, fresh out of Zimbabwe, I wouldn't be so optimistic, but right now I think he's got all the credentials required. He only retired from county cricket two years ago, so he's still quite fresh, whereas most high-profile coaches have been out of the game for a while.
HS: Definitely. Andy will expect a lot of self-discipline from his players. His coaching will be very specific - when we toured the subcontinent, Andy spent a lot of time on worn wickets, working very specifically in the conditions he expected we would be playing in. He will bring that aspect to the England camp. I know from speaking to my Warwickshire team-mates who have worked with him, guys like Ian Bell, they respect him highly.
Is he the right man for the England job?
GM: When I heard his name mentioned for the job, I knew straight away he was the right man for it. He knows the national system, knows the county system and obviously brings a hell of a lot to the table in terms of what he achieved and went through as a player. He has climbed mountains before, and I think he will do it again.
MG: I do, yeah, purely because he knows what is happening. He's been around the system for quite a while now and I honestly think that Andy has got an excellent cricket brain, he handles people very well and he has a lot of good ideas. He's a class act and I would like to see him get the job, not only as a friend, but I think for England, after the debacle with Peter Moores, there has to be some sort of consistency. I thought Andy did a great job in the Caribbean.
HO: I would wholeheartedly endorse him. In fact, I'd say it's a no-brainer. Remember this guy made it to No. 1 in the world rankings while playing for a country like Zimbabwe, and that must show his level of mental toughness. He could have done with some better results in the Windies and they never quite came his way, but this is not football where results are expected in three weeks. Given time, the true mettle of the guy will shine through. If there's an area that England need to toughen up, most people would say it is mentally. I think that is his strongest trait and I hope that it translates into his coaching.
HS: I think so. He's in touch with cricket at the highest level and has played recently. He understands the demands of international cricket at the moment. He's also highly qualified. He has built up a lot of coaching experience over the past few years, so he is very well prepared. If all goes goes well, I can see him being a very positive influence on England and moving them forward.
Interviews by Alex Brown, Andrew Miller and Andrew McGlashan