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September 17, 2002
The Cricket Interview / Andy Flower
'My time to captain Zimbabwe again has passed'
Andy Flower's phenomenal form over the past few years has seen him rise to the top of the PricewaterhouseCoopers Ratings as the best batsman in the world, ahead of Sachin Tendulkar and Brian Lara.
Starting off as a wicketkeeper-batsman, the left-handed batsman led Zimbabwe to their first Test victory, against Pakistan, in 1994-95. Later, in his second stint as captain, he led the team on the tour of England, in 2000.
Playing spin is Andy's forte. There are few players in contemporary cricket who play the turning ball better than him. On the 2001 tour of India, he amassed 540 runs, which included a huge double century at Nagpur. But his greatest moment came in the Test against South Africa at Harare last year, when he scored 142 and an unbeaten 199 not out. It was the highest match total in history by a player on the losing side.
The older of the two Flower brothers -- Grant is the younger sibling -- Andy spoke to Assistant Editor Faisal Shariff in Colombo about Zimbabwe cricket and his plans for the future.
You are the star performer of your team. The entire batting revolves around you...
I don't think that is true. We have got some good players -- some experienced and some new -- and I think that these guys will step up and do very well.
Will the ICC Champions Trophy be a guideline to the World Cup in South Africa?
I think it will be a good start. Everyone is thinking of the World Cup and this is just the start of the rivalries between the teams; the competitive edge will be good for the teams. We play India and England in our group in the World Cup and if we can put on over them here that is a good start. [Zimbabwe lost to India in their opening match of the Champions Trophy.]
What's your take on the use of technology?
I did not know that. It is pretty interesting and it is quite good to experiment, to judge how well it works. My own views are that I prefer lesser use of the third umpire. The umpires should be allowed to make their own decisions on the pitch and the players and the commentators should just get on with the game. Human error has always been a part of the game and I think that is how it should remain.
With so much at stake, do you think it is worth it? There are careers on the line.
I understand that there are careers on the line but we must understand that human error is a part of the sport. I am a traditionalist and I think that is the way the sport should continue.
Do you think there should be uniformity in payments for Test-playing nations?
I don't think all the players should be paid the same as the best-playing nations in the world. I don't think that we should be paid the same as Australia.
Are you playing county cricket for the money or for the experience?
The financial aspect is a very pleasant bonus for us, but I always wanted to play a county season to see what it is like. [Andy plays for Essex in the English county championship] Most of the players around the world have played county cricket as overseas professionals and I think that it is an honour for me to play.
Are you happy with the current development program in Zimbabwe?
I am not a development officer or an administrator to comment on it either way -- whether it is good or bad. But I feel that it is not as good as it could have been over the years. I don't want to go into that.
You did not have a good outing on the last series against Sri Lanka here in Colombo. You struggled with the bat...
I did have a tough time with the bat, but you have to move on from there and think positive thoughts.
Have you ever thought of leaving Zimbabwe and playing in the South African or Australian cricket leagues?
I cannot deny that in 1991 I did think of playing in South Africa. Zimbabwe had not got Test status yet. When we got Test status soon after I stayed back. It was an amazing opportunity to play international cricket. I think it is a very difficult decision to make -- to give up international cricket for a better international pay package.
So it is still a consideration for me, but all I want to do is play a successful season and have a good World Cup in South Africa.
Zimbabwe has thrived under your captaincy. Do you wish to captain the team again?
To be honest, I think my time to captain Zimbabwe again has passed. There are younger men to step in and take that responsibility. I think it is a job you have to be completely committed to do. Right now I am not hungry to do the job. So I think I am not the man for the job.
Steve Waugh recently said in an interview that batsmen around the world have lost the art of batting long hours in Test cricket. He blamed one-day cricket for the decline in batting standards. As one of the leading Test batsmen in the world do you agree with that?
I don't think one-day cricket is taking the true art away from the game. I think it has affected the way batsmen bat. Batsmen nowadays play more aggressively especially against the spinners. There is a certain amount of confidence that they take from the one-day game into their Test batting and hit over the top more often. More shots are being played today in Tests and I don't think that is a bad thing. On the flip side it makes the game more exciting besides bringing in more results.
South Africa and Zimbabwe have for a long time been debating about the reservation policy for coloured cricketers in the team. What is your stand?
I am not a policy-maker, but your national side should be the best eleven players available; not a compromise side. Now if those best eleven include eleven black cricketers or eleven Asians or eleven white men it should not matter. The colour of a player should not determine his place in the side. That is unfair.
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