Thursday, October 7

Grant Flower returns

Grant Flower's shock return to playing international cricket means even more than those times when Zimbabwe and South Africa were finding their feet in cricket in the late 1980s and early 1990s; I still remember an old Clive Rice struggling, another old John Traicos struggling even more. Thirty-nine-year-old Flower might or might not struggle, though I don't think he will with either bat or ball (and I believe he could be a handful with the ball in T20 cricket), but what he brings to the team is not leadership but the charisma of the halcyon days of Zimbabwe cricket - a team that had everything in the world, including their penchant of playing a game for the game, for the love of it, and not for making and grinding careers out, and yet a team that did not have a home.

What happened six or seven years ago is now painful history, but today a fresh breath is blowing in. T20 is bringing in never heard of money into the game of cricket, which would be good for the youngsters playing the game in the Caribbean and the African countries. There are options other than football, rugby and baseball. For a tall, strapping lad, basketball might not be the only avenue; he might still become a fast bowler. Because with the rise of T20, Test cricket will also rise, I believe: it is the 50-over one-day game that should suffer. I also see the United States entering the game in the next five years, of course only the T20s: that moment, especially whenever the US wins its first game, should be as pivotal a moment for cricket as was India's World Cup win in 1983. It will also be good as the power center will not remain one: earlier England, now India; rather US and India, two focal points of the game, with Australia an ambitious third.

The infusion of old and new blood in Zimbabwe cricket is not coincidental; a person like Andy Blignaut, why would he want to be a part of the team again (though not selected this time)? Coaches are pouring in for the Zimbabwean domestic teams from the world over, including someone of the stature and of the honesty of Allan Donald; they are even getting sponsors. What is important now is that the coaches play their roles: it is only encouragement that one needs in sport, especially in cricket which is completely a game of mental strength, guts and strategy. Masakadza especially is someone who is supremely talented: Flower must groom him. From somewhere, Zimbabwe needs to find a couple of good fast bowlers; they already have decent spinners. The bowling attack was the problem with Zimbabwe even when it was at its strongest; that is the first thing it must target now. I also think Zimbabwe must blood in a new keeper now: Taibu, though big of heart, has been given enough chances, and he is still not mature enough for the game. If possible, somehow, get Sean Ervine back from Australia (or wherever he is now!) and, the wildest of dreams, Doug Marillier. The most wild of dreams would of course be that in a couple of years while Zimbabwe rebuilds itself slowly and steadily, Andy Flower finishes his assignment with England's coaching position and returns to his home: now the challenge will be the sweetest, the toughest, and when has Andy shied from life's hardships? He loves truth; he will return.



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