The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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I played a part in carrying our cricket to multi-million dollar business: Andy Flower

Harare: Itís unlikely that Zimbabwe will, in the immediate future at least, find a replacement for Andy Flower. Yet, the countryís No.1 cricketer is quitting after the World Cup. He is signing off on a controversial note (black armband and all), but that shouldnít detract from his enormous contribution to Zimbabwe cricket.

Though Andy declined to answer questions related to his and Henry Olongaís extraordinary protest, in the match against Namibia, he didnít duck other queries. In fact, Andy spoke to The Telegraph for around half-an-hour at the Harare Sports Club, late on Monday, after an extended workout and a one-to-one with Olonga.

The following are excerpts:

On plans after quitting international cricket

Iíll be back at Essex and, then, take it up from there... Itís very sad I wonít again be playing for Zimbabwe, but that was a decision I had to make. Iíve got to move on now... South Australia' Whether or not Iíll play for them is something I wonít talk about right now.

On the reasons for deciding to quit

(After a pause) Some are a little touchy and, so, I wouldnít like to go on record... But, yes, financial considerations have played a part as also family reasons. Over the years, there have been a lot of distractions in Zimbabwe and, last year, it was nice going over to Essex and just enjoying the game...

On 11 years of international cricket

(Smiles) I havenít had the chance to look back... Reflecting at the top of my head, itís been an amazing period and Iíve played a part in carrying Zimbabwe cricket from small beginnings to a multi-million dollar business ó probably the most successful in the country. In fact, cricket is a successful sport as well. I accept we arenít one of the best sides in the world, but can still hold our heads high. Speaking purely personally, I never quite expected to do the things Iíve actually done... I always wanted to travel the world and cricket gave me the opportunity. Iíve been a lucky guy.

On having quit the captaincy some years ago

Iíd stopped enjoying the job... That the team wasnít doing well was definitely a factor. Also, it wasnít easy getting the guys to train and behave as professionals. That transitional period involving amateurs and pros was tough... At times, it was frustrating as well. Then, I myself made mistakes in man-management. Having matured, Iíve no doubt I would have been a better captain in more recent times. (After a pause) Basically, if you arenít enjoying the job, you shouldnít be at it. In a team sport, for example, it tends to affect teammates.

On the musical chairs over the captaincy

In an ideal world, yes, there should be continuity. That there have been so many changes, in recent years, is a pointer that things havenít been rosy in Zimbabwe cricket. However, if a captain is chosen wisely and backed by the Establishment, thereís no reason why he canít have a reasonable tenure. Of course, Iím opposed to anybody having a fixed term. The appointment has to be open-ended.

On having had that three-in-one role (captaincy, wicketkeeping and being the No.1 batsman)

Did take its toll, specially on my íkeeping. I found it hard devoting time to that job and couldnít concentrate to the degree I wanted to.

On having stopped being the wicketkeeper

That was decided by the selectors. Left to me, I would have continued to íkeep. That decision, though, was out of my hands.

On Tatenda Taibu

Oh, heís got great attitude and is getting better and better each time. Moreover, his batting has improved tremendously. Today, he isnít an immature batsman but a very well organised one. Heís modest, but doesnít lack confidence. Heís got a great future.

On being regarded one of the finest players of spin

Iíve worked hard right through my career and tried to be smart at everything I did. (After a pause) Generally, cricketers donít devote much time to thinking about the game. Yet, Iíve been particular about doing so. I accept Iím not among the most physically gifted but, then, guys have to work hard and devise a reasonably low risk method of getting runs.

On always being expected to score

(Smiles again) Like it or not, cricketers have to deal with pressure, the pressure of expectations. Itís a distraction and must be tackled. Personally, I havenít made that a big part of my cricket. Indeed, Iíve tried to put pressure in perspective ó that itís not life or death, that failure wonít mean the end of the world. If one series isnít good, well, look to the next one...

On his fantastic record (Tests and ODIs) against India

Iíve believed in a simple philosophy: When the going is good, make the most of it.

On his prescription for Zimbabwean cricket

Weíve already taken a few good steps... Weíve got an academy in place, weíve got a top coach (Geoff Marsh) and assistant coach (Kevin Curran) and, in Vince Hogg, weíve got a good chief executive... So, positives exist... What weíve got to do is strengthen our base, which is domestic cricket, and ensure that the academy staff is the best we can afford... The A team too must have a top coach. Also, down the line, the right disciplines must be followed.

On what cricket has taught him

(Laughs) Straight up, thatís a big question... It has taught me humility... Iíve learnt by watching somebody like Sachin Tendulkar... The way he has kept his humility is amazing...Then, during the years of travel, Iíve been reminded of the importance of being down to earth... Weíve been exposed to five-star hotels, but have also encountered crippled beggars... Thatís been a different experience. Strictly cricket-wise, I learnt to work through the hard times... The years of cricket also made me appreciate camaraderie... Iíve learnt not to be too smart or cocky when on a high and, equally, not get devastated when the ride isnít good.

On whether he admires/envies any cricketer(s)

Admire a lot of them... The hugely naturally gifted ones like Tendulkar, Brian Lara, Wasim Akram and Shane Warne... Then, the ones who have worked so hard to have that discipline in their game ó Steve Waugh, Glenn McGrath... My brother (Grant) as well.

Finally, on Zimbabweís chances in the World Cup

If we beat India, we should make it to the Super Six. Once there, anything can happen.

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