Grant Flower has had a chequered career over the last few years. Three years ago he seemed set to embark on a career of true world class, and then struck a period of appalling form, due mainly to technical and confidence problems. He lost form as an opener and was finally dropped to the middle order a year ago in India; he responded with a mass of runs again. Then he struggled for runs again in the middle order against South Africa and England, yet was promoted to opening the innings again. He responded with scores of 96 and 104 in the two Bulawayo matches against England. He talks to John Ward about his fortunes.
I don't think I really did lose form in the middle order. I was averaging about 60 to 65 at number six, but it was just that in the last few games when I did go in there, there were only about 10 to 15 overs to go each time and we were behind the rate and needed four-balls straight away. It's quite hard on a slow pitch like Sports Club to go in and play big shots straight away against quality bowlers like the English. I actually felt in very good form.
The first 15 overs of a one-day innings are so crucial and I just feel we have been missing out compared to other sides, who are hitting the ball around at the moment and scoring very briskly. We needed a solid opening pair that could try to take advantage of the first 15. Seeing that I wasn't getting much of a bat in the middle order, with so few overs left, I wasn't making the best use of my ability, I don't think.
So we decided to give it a go at the top. It was Alistair Campbell's suggestion that I should go in with him. I failed in my first innings here at Harare Sports Club, and then I got some runs in Bulawayo. I'm very happy about opening again; I feel I have more to offer the side at the top opposed to the middle order.
Even number six in the middle order is a specialist position; Michael Bevan used to be there, but he is now playing at number four in the Australian batting order. So I think it's just a matter of maximizing the most of your players.
It was a really good pitch in Bulawayo, and I knew that if I got in and just played straight, it was a good pitch to play cricket on and I just had to give myself a chance at the top. Once you get in, it's just a mental thing, trying to milk the bowling and hit the occasional boundary when the need arises.
It helps to have a good partner at the other end, but we've all been struggling a bit in every department. It does help if you have someone rotating the strike all the time, because that's what it's all about. When a wicket falls, it's up to the in batsman to play through the innings and the guy who comes in to play the big shots.
Of the English bowlers, I thought Hoggard bowled very well - he's got a lot of talent. James Kirtley swings the ball nicely, even though he's had a few problems with his action. Jeremy Snape bowled well on our slow pitches and I think he's got a bit of a future. Andrew Flintoff gets the ball through quickly and he's a good all-rounder. I think generally they bowled a much better line than we did, in the channel, and with much more discipline in both batting and bowling.
They were a side we could have beaten but I think they were a lot more committed than we were in many aspects. We just went from bad to worse. Seeing my friend Alistair Campbell got into trouble for his comments on why we were not so committed, I'd rather not comment on that.
About relationships with the other team, we've always had a bit of a thing with the English, and I think that goes back to the tour here when David Lloyd had a few words to say. There has always been a bit of bitterness between the two sides.
We didn't do that much socializing, but at the same time there wasn't anything that actually stirred it up apart from Andrew Flower and their keeper James Foster, who had a bit of a go at each other. There's always good healthy rivalry, but these days in modern cricket there's so little time to do any socializing, and professionalism has come in so much to cricket that the actual fun has probably gone out of the game because of it.
We do have a drink together after the game now and again, but generally, whereas in the old days you'd probably have quite a few drinks with the opposition, it's frowned upon these days. There were a few of the English players who would come along to the changing room or have a chat at times, and there were a few who went into their changing room, but I wouldn't say it was a party every time. That's gone out of the game, I think, generally.
I've always been good friends with James Kirtley, because he came out here and played in Zimbabwe. I know Jeremy Snape a bit because Northamptonshire came here a couple of times when he used to play for them. Other than that, I didn't get to know any of them really well.
Now I've started opening again in one-dayers, it might lead to my opening in Tests again. I'm willing to give it a go but I'm not too sure what the selectors think. But Test cricket is a totally different game. Batting six in one-dayers and six in Test cricket have totally different pressures, and so does opening.