Andy Flower's love affair with India continues!

HARARE - If you had approached a life-long member of the ECB and told him that it would be another 28 years before England would secure an away Test series win over India, you would have been met by a severe frown and a raising of eyebrows.

And, if you had taken your courage in both hands and suggested that the coach would be Zimbabwean, you would probably have been deported.

 But, the truth of the matter is that former Zimbabwean and world number one ranked Test batsman Andy Flower played a significant part in a memorable series win as England came from behind to win the four-match series 2-1.

 Flower initially joined England's coaching staff as their batting coach in 2007 before taking over as director of coaching in 2008.

 Flower had spent several successful seasons with the English county side Essex where he earned the respect of players and officials. Not only because of his on-field achievements, but he also had the ability to hold the attention of players and officials when talking and he was able to back up his statements with results.

 However, one has to go back to Flower's playing days in order to realise that Zimbabwe had produced a special cricketer who made the cricketing world sit up and take note.

 Partly because he was the only Zimbabwean who consistently made runs at Test level, and due to the fact that he became the world's number one ranked Test batsman as well as the ICC Test player of the year back in 2000.

 Flower's Test career was a star-studded one with many memorable highlights, such as the consecutive Test centuries against a full strength South African team at Harare Sports Club, as well as the fourth wicket partnership of 269 against Pakistan with his brother Grant, which to this day is still the highest partnership between two brothers in Test cricket.

 His match-saving innings of 100 not out against Pakistan at Queens Sports Club in 1998 will also be spoken about for years to come.

 But it was Zimbabwe's tour of India back in 2000 that will be remembered for the rest of time and beyond when Flower scored a massive 540 runs in a two Test match series, at a staggering average of 270, with scores of 183 not out, 70, 55 and 232 not out.

 Flower had started off as a very slow, if not boring batsman, with a limited shot selection and was looked upon as a batsman who occupied the crease, without posing much of a threat to the opposition.

 But when Flower took over the captaincy from Dave Houghton in 1993, all of that changed when Zimbabwe toured Pakistan for the first time in a three-Test match series.

 Suddenly, the solid but limited batsman turned into a dashing middle order player, with an array of strokes off both the front and back foot when facing seam bowling. And when the spinners were introduced, it wouldn't be long before the reverse sweep was employed with a huge amount of success. Had Flower not retired from Test cricket due to personal reasons, one gets the distinct feeling that his name would have been right up there with the likes of the world's best.

 And so Flower had more than proved himself as a Test player with a career average of over 50 in 52 Test appearances for his country.

 However, there were some who were a little more than just skeptical when Flower took over as head coach. Would he be able to emulate Duncan Fletcher and win the Ashes when Australia toured England in 2009? And more importantly, would he be able to improve England's dreadful track record when going on tour?

 As he so often did when he played for Zimbabwe, Andrew Flower rose to the challenge in emphatic stile as England won the Ashes at home, and then regained them when they beat Australia in Australia in 2010, breaking a 25-year drought.

 Flower's impeccable record was slightly stained however, when England were comprehensively beaten by both Pakistan and South Africa earlier this year.

 The latter being at home which may very easily have caused the powers that be to show some concern. This concern may have intensified when Flower and the golden boy of the team, Kevin Pietersen failed to reach an agreement on a number of matters.

 But once again, Flower responded to the potential pressure in typical Andy Flower stile by not only coming from a test match down to win the test series against India, in India, but he now also has been described by many experienced journalists and commentators as England's most successful coach for 28 years.

 This is an enormous accolade for somebody who played international cricket for a country who at the time, had less than 50 first class players to choose from.

 He may be coaching England, and may possibly never be involved with Zimbabwean cricket again, but in our hearts we will always remember Andrew Flower as the Zimbabwean who not only had the privilege of being the world's number one ranked test batsman, but was also in charge of a team who not so long ago was ranked as the world's number one ranked Test team. - Dean du Plessis

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