When it was first announced that Grant Flower would return as Zimbabwe’s batting coach it was greeted with much enthusiasm. Now it has just also been confirmed that Grant, who is now 39 has been included in the squad for Zimbabwe’s tour to South Africa next month as a player and is therefore set to make a stunning comeback to international cricket more than six years after his last appearance for Zimbabwe.
Grant, who has been coaching and playing for Essex for the last six seasons, returned home in August to join the national team of Zimbabwe as its batting coach. Besides his role with the national team, Flower was also appointed as the player coach of the Mashonaland Eagles, a domestic franchise of Zimbabwe.
Grant is one of Zimbabwe’s most experienced players and during his first 12 years as part of the Zimbabwean cricket team, he played in 67 Test matches scoring 3457 runs at an average of 29.54 including six centuries and 15 half centuries with a highest of 201 not out. As well as the tests, he played 219 One Day Internationals during his first spell with the Zimbabwe side, scoring a total of 6536 runs including six hundreds and 40 fifties at an average of 33.69. Flower’s top score in ODI’s is 142 not out.
Grant is also a more than capable left arm spinner and in his first stint playing for Zim he claimed 25 Test wickets with a best of 4 for 47 and 104 one-day wickets. His best ODI bowling figures were 4 for 32.
Zims loss, Essex’s Gain
After retiring from international cricket for the first time, and when he first joined Essex six years ago under the controversial Kolpak ruling some Essex fans didn’t take too kindly to his arrival, some even booed.
But the cheering for his retirement on after hitting an unbeaten 81 against Middlesex in his last game, showed he has won the hearts and minds of the Chelmsford faithful who screamed ‘There’s only one Grant Flower’.
Flower has so far made 188 first-class appearances scoring 10,898 runs with 23 centuries and 166 wickets.
Alistair Campbell, now the Zimbabwe selector, has already said that he wants Grant Flower to play in the 2011 World Cup. He said that he feels that the younger batsmen in the Zimbabwe squad will benefit immensely from playing with one of the countries most experienced cricketers. However, he also went on to say that his return to international cricket would be assessed on a case-by-case basis as the batsman himself had concerns about his fitness.
“The agreement we have is that we’ll just play it tour by tour and see where he’s at,” Campbell told Cricket365. “He says he’s got a few niggling injuries and the like, but he’s committed to this tour [South Africa] and for our domestic Twenty20 tournament, and then we’ll play it by ear from there. I wouldn’t say he’s got a couple of years, but I would dearly love him to play up to and including the World Cup – that’s always been my aim.”
Grant admitted that the dual role of batting coach and player would make his position in the team quite complicated. He further added that the dual role can lead to a conflict of interests as his performance as a player is more likely to affect his coaching role. “There can be a conflict of interests with my role as the batting coach if I can’t turn things around as a player,” Flower said. “It can be awkward if I don’t. If it works, however, it can come out in positive fashion.”
As well as Grant, there have been a number of other high-profile cricketers who have joined Zimbabwe cricket this season. Pacer Jason Gillespie from Australia and South African great, Allan Donald have already started as domestic coaches in Zim, whilst former New Zealand all-rounder, Chris Harris has been put in charge of the Zimbabwe U19 team.
Zimbabwe Squads for the tour of South Africa:
ODI Squad: Elton Chigumbura (capt), Hamilton Masakadza , Chamu Chibhabha, Tatenda Taibu (wk), Shingirai Masakadza, Ian Nicolson, Prosper Utseya, Graeme Cremer, Ed Rainsford, Chris Mpofu, Keith Dabengwa, Grant Flower, Sean Williams, Craig Ervine, Brendan Taylor.
Twenty20 squad: Elton Chigumbura(capt), Hamilton Masakadza , Chamu Chibhabha, Tatenda Taibu (wk), Shingirai Masakadza, Ian Nicolson, Prosper Utseya, Graeme Cremer, Charles Coventry, Ed Rainsford, Chris Mpofu, Keith Dabengwa, Grant Flower, Brendan Taylor.
Zimbabwe Cricket Books
Amazon, have a bunch of Zim related cricket books, including "Blood, Sweat And Treason" by Henry Olonga, “A History of the Rhodesia and Zimbabwe National Sides” by Jonty Winch who traces the history of cricket in this country (Zimbabwe) from the first recorded game played in 1890, through two World Wars and a guerilla war, to the comparative peace of post-independence and eventual world recognition in the 1980s when Zimbabwe was able to send a side to England to take part in the I.C.C. Trophy competition which it won.
There is also the Autobiography of another great Zimbabwean cricket coach Duncan Fletcher “Behind the Shades”
At the moment Amazon UK don’t have as wide selection as the US site, but I have ordered books from the US and had them delivered to the UK with no problems.
Zimbabwe Cricket on Amazon.co.uk
Where to Buy Blood, Sweat and Treason
Currently available in Hardcover it is available online through Amazon, in the UK and US