From time to time, Andy Flower still misses the old days. Much less now because it has been so long and it is in his nature to look forward and not back. But it was then and there, of course, that he became the man he is, that his character was shaped, that he learnt so many of the aspects of life and of cricket that he now brings to being the coach of the England team.
"I miss certain things about Zimbabwe, yes, but that's sort of dwindling the longer I am out of it," he said. "The most obvious one would probably be some of my closest friends and interacting with them again. But there are also things like the smell of the rain, or the smell of the bush, and being able to go fishing or into the bush, or just go to someone's farm. The freshness and innocence of that type of lifestyle, I do miss that. And I was really lucky as a kid, so lucky to grow up there."
Flower grew up there, started his working life as a trainee accountant there, became the country's most accomplished cricketer and left shortly after the 2003 World Cup when, in joint protest with his team-mate, Henry Olonga, he wore a black armband to lament the death of democracy there. The message rang round the world. He came to England with his English wife, Rebecca, and their three small children, played for Essex and briefly for South Australia, and six years later was appointed to the job he now holds.
Brought in as assistant by his predecessor, Peter Moores, he became England's head coach after Moores was deposed following a rift with Kevin Pietersen who also went as captain. It has gone exceedingly well, though Flower is notoriously reluctant to dwell on it. If India are beaten in the Test series in this country starting later this month, England will be the No 1-ranked team in the world.
Alastair Cook has just become England's one-day international captain, an appointment that has raised eyebrows because he has been out of the side for two years. "He is a natural successor as a player, he is a proven heavy run scorer and I think he could become a very good one-day player," Flower said. "On the captaincy side he is a natural successor. Obviously, no one is promised the job of Test captain, definitely not, but while I don't see it as such, it's inevitable this will be seen as an audition."
Flower is hesitant about looking too far into the future in the job. "I have heard a lot of people, who know what they're talking about, say things like there's a natural cut-off after four or five years for England captains and perhaps coaches. I don't like restricting myself with that sort of thinking. I much prefer to keep an open mind, not because I think I can do the job for ever, I certainly don't. I don't look that far ahead because I know how quickly things can change and you can be out of this in the blink of an eye."
West Indies (h) Two-Test series: won 2-0; Three one-day internationals: won 2-0.
Australia (h) Five Tests: won 2-1; Seven ODIs: lost 6-1; Two Twenty20s: drew 0-0.
Ireland (a) One ODI: won 1-0.
World Twenty20 (n) won 2, lost 3.
Champions Trophy (n) won 2, lost 2.
South Africa (a) Four Tests: drew 1-1; Five ODIs: won 2-1; Two T20s: drew 1-1.
Pakistan (a) Two T20s: drew 1-1.
Bangladesh (a) Two Tests: won 2-0;
Three ODIs: won 3-0.
World Twenty20 (n) won 5, lost 1, NR 1.
Scotland (a) One ODI: won 1-0.
Bangladesh (h) Two Tests: won 2-0;
Three ODIs: won 2-1.
Australia (h) Five ODIs: won 3-2.
Pakistan (h) Four Tests: won 3-1; Five ODIs: won 3-2; Two T20s: won 2-0.
Australia (a) Five Tests: won 3-1.
Australia (a) Seven ODIs: lost 6-1; Two T20s: drew 1-1.
World Cup (n) won 3, lost 3, tied 1
Sri Lanka (h) Three Tests: won 1-0;
One T20: lost 1-0; Two ODIs.
Test P27 W16 L4 D7
ODI P50 W25 L24 T1
Twenty20 P22 W12 L8 NR2Reuse content