If you bowled to a fellow nicknamed ‘Petals’ you might fancy your chances. However, Andy ‘Petals’ Flower was the only Zimbabwean batsman in full bloom during the 1990s. He was considered to be the only world-class batsman from Zimbabwe and one of the best players of spin bowling in the world. Flower’s strokes were not always as pretty as his name suggests, but he was an inventive stroke-player who excelled in all forms of the game.

Born in Cape Town, South Africa on April 28th, 1968, Flower developed into an accomplished left-handed batsman. What makes his achievement with the bat even more remarkable was that he was playing in the weakest Test team and was a wicketkeeper. Flower was good enough to be selected to nearly any cricket team by virtue of his batting alone. Even before Adam Gilchrist arrived on the international scene, Flower represented the archetypal wicketkeeper-batsman.

Andy Flower- along with his younger brother, Grant- was a fixture in the Zimbabwe line-up for more than a decade. He made his First-class debut in the 1986/1987 domestic season in Zimbabwe. His Test debut coincided with Zimbabwe’s debut in Test cricket- against India in 1992. Flower made a half-century on debut, in a match that Zimbabwe drew comfortably after a first-innings batting exhibition.

Flower’s Test record was quite impressive. He played 63 matches, plundering 4,794 runs at an excellent average of 51.54. His run tally included 12 hundreds, with an unbeaten score of232 against India at Nagpur being his best effort. In his specialist fielding position, he took 151 catches and completed 9 ‘stumpings’. From 213 ODI matches, Flower’s enterprising batting brought him 6,786 runs at an average of 35.34.

Flower’s international cricket career was over at the 2003 ICC Cricket World Cup. His retirement was prematurely brought about by the political turmoil that eventually put Zimbabwean cricket in virtual stasis. Andy Flower and fast bowler Henry Olonga protested the ‘death of democracy in Zimbabwe’ at the start of Zimbabwe’s campaign by wearing black arm bands. Flower was one of many prominent Zimbabwe cricketers who retired because of the state of cricket and politics in Zimbabwe and sought refuge in other countries.

Andy Flower had the distinction of playing for South Australia, Essex and Marylebone Cricket Club during his two decades of First class cricket. He accumulated 16,379 runs at a distinguished average of 54.05. Flower played his last First class match for Essex in 2006. Since his retirement from competitive cricket, he continued his involvement in cricket as a coach.

The 2002 Wisden Cricketer of the year became part of the English coaching setup- as an assistant coach- soon after he retired from competitive cricket in the 2006/2007 season. The ECB thrust him into the top coaching spot with the contentious departure of Peter Moores before England’s 2009 tour of the West Indies.

Whether as a competent wicketkeeper, stroke-maker or just one of the best players of top-quality spin bowling, there’s no disputing that Andy Flower was world class- a true Zimbabwean cricket icon.