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Zimbabwe rely on Flower power
Telford Vice |
January 27, 2003 21:15 IST
Few teams at the 2003 World Cup will be as dependent on a single player as Zimbabwe will be on Andy Flower.
The 34-year-old, Cape Town-born batsman has played in 205 of the 222 one-day internationals contested by his country, and his batting average of 34.88 is the highest among the squad.
Flower, put bluntly, is the one bona fide world-class player in an otherwise unremarkable team.
Captain Heath Streak will spearhead the attack, young all rounder Andy Blignaut will doubtless steal a few headlines and Zimbabwe will hope the return to form of Flower's brother Grant this season will continue into the tournament.
But the player the men in red will rely on in times of strife remains Andy Flower.
"He's certainly Zimbabwe's number one player," former captain Stuart Carlisle told Reuters. "He's the most mentally strong and he's also a very versatile batsman.
"Zimbabwe will depend heavily on him at number three in this World Cup."
Carlisle said Flower's chief attributes did not stem from natural talent.
"His success has a lot to do with his exceptionally strong mind and he's also a very well-organised person," Carlisle said. "He's gone into the psychology of batting."
Flower also has a settling effect on the rest of the Zimbabwean team.
"He reverses the pressure," Carlisle said. "He's gone in time and again with Zimbabwe 10 for two, and he's risen to the occasion."
Flower coped with the heavy burden of being Zimbabwe's premier batsman as well as keeping wicket and captaining the team in 16 Test matches and 46 one-day internationals.
He has since passed the wicketkeeping gloves to Tatenda Taibu, while Streak is the latest in Zimbabwe's long line of captains. All Flower will have to think about at the World Cup is batting.
Flower's cricket pedigree is long and rich, beginning with his first century -- run out for 116 -- in primary school.
He was playing first-league cricket at 15 and made his first-class debut at 18 for a Zimbabwe Cricket Union President's XI against Young West Indies in Harare in 1986. Batting at seven, he scored 59 in Zimbabwe's inaugural Test match, against India in Harare in 1992-93.
The 1992 World Cup gave Flower his debut one-day international, against Sri Lanka at New Plymouth, and he made the occasion memorable by opening the batting and scoring an unbeaten 115 -- only the third player at the time to make a century in his first ODI.
Flower's epic effort, significantly, made him the obvious winner of the man-of-the-match award but it was not enough to guide Zimbabwe to victory.
That has, more often than not, been the story of his international career.
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