Grant Flower

'Each time I went to play, I gave myself the best chance'

Grant Flower was there for Zimbabwe's first Test, back in 1992, and their first win, two years later

Interview by Faraz Sarwat |

"I really love the game. I tried to put all my work into it" © Getty Images

The magnitude of playing your first Test match is huge. And it's a proud moment to represent your country. We had a team dinner the night before the Test. There was pride, and relief for a lot of people who had put in a lot of hard work towards that goal.

I've always enjoyed batting with my brother Andy. I've learned a lot off him and we bat well together. We knew each other's game very well and that helped us a lot with running between the wickets.

It was very sad when our Test status was suspended. There were mistakes made by both parties - the players and our board. But that's history and everyone's moved on. There's good talent in the current team and hopefully we can build on that.

The ODI series that stands out is beating England 3-0 at home. It was a good series for us on the back of David Lloyd's comments that they murdered us. I think he realised that he probably made a mistake in saying that. We didn't need that comment, but it did spur us a little bit and wasn't a bad thing psychologically.

Of the fast bowlers I faced, Shoaib Akhtar was definitely one of the quickest, if not the quickest - Waqar Younis and Wasim Akram too. They and Allan Donald were all great bowlers on their day, and were there or thereabouts with their speeds.

Growing up, I had dreams of playing first-class cricket and county cricket. My heroes were Viv Richards, Graeme Hick, Barry Richards and Dave Houghton - I learned a lot from him. These were the players I really looked up to, to name just a few

I had 20 good years playing international and first-class cricket. I just got to the stage where I had to make a decision of whether I wanted to coach full-time or keep playing. My body was all right and I was fit enough, but to be honest, I think I had just had enough of the pressure, and decided to go into coaching.

Our first Test win was a great occasion. To beat Pakistan was a huge feat for us. I remember getting a lot of bouncers from Wasim Akram, and quite a bit of abuse. The biggest thing was enforcing the follow-on. That's when we had them on the rack. If we hadn't got them to bat again there might have been a different scenario. We were in a lot of trouble and under pressure at 42 for 3 when Andy came to bat. He counterattacked and I held up the other end. Scoring a double-hundred and beating Pakistan. That was my favourite Test match.

I was very lucky to have played over 200 ODIs. A few of the ones that stand out are beating South Africa at Chelmsford during the World Cup and getting Man of the Match against England at Sydney during the World Series.

I really love the game. I tried to put all my work into it, so each time I went to play I gave myself the best chance. I had a lot of good times and I'm very happy.

As a coach I've learned man management - how to deal with players and talk to people better and how to read a game situation better. The more you talk to people, the more you can learn, and that will hold you in good stead.

The 1999 World Cup team was probably our best ODI side. We did well in the tournament and made the quarter-finals.

There was a sense of loss that players like Graeme Hick and Kevin Curran missed out on Test cricket for Zimbabwe, but that's the way life goes. A bit like me, my brother and a few others missing out on Twenty20 cricket. It goes in cycles.

I was very nervous during my first Test match. I remember all the preparation we put into it - lots of hard work and practice. I remember the experience of facing Kapil Dev, one of the world's best bowlers, and then nearly getting India to follow-on. Sanjay Manjrekar played a great innings and that didn't happen, but it was a great experience to play a Test match.

Wasim Akram was the best bowler I faced, and the most difficult. With the amount of swing and reverse swing that he got, it was very hard.

I most enjoyed playing cricket with my brother, but I also had a lot of fun with Alistair Campbell - he had a good cricketing brain - Murray Goodwin, Neil Johnson and Heath Streak. I also liked games where I played alongside cricketers from other countries.

Faraz Sarwat is the cricket columnist for the Toronto Star and the author of The Cricket World Cup: History, Highlights, Facts and Figures

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