Aggression is the first step of batting now: Andy Flower
Andy Flower has done it all—a batting great, a stellar wicket-keeper, a celebrated captain—the former Zimbabwe cricketer has also helped England win two Ashes as coach and made them the T20 world champions in 2010.
As a batsman, he was ahead of his time, employing the reverse sweep against spin on Indian tracks to perfection. Now, Flower brings his experience and acumen as a coach in T20 leagues around the world. Currently in the Caribbean as the head coach of St Lucia Zouks in the Caribbean Premier League (CPL), his next assignment will be to help Kings XI Punjab navigate the IPL in UAE as assistant coach.
In this email interview, Flower discusses the nuances of coaching in T20s. Edited excerpts:
Is T20 coaching more tactical than technical?
Without doubt it is angled towards not only team coaching, but towards getting tactically as accurate as possible. Hitting technique, innovation technique, those are the things that you will work with players on. The thrust of your coaching will be around the main tactics of the game, ensuring bringing together of your analysis, information; interpreting the data as accurately and wisely as possible, and ensuring that the players are understating the tactics that you and the captain would like them to employ. And then, also allowing them the space and freedom to express their talent as much as possible.
How much has T20 cricket changed the game?
It has driven innovation in the game. As the standards of the game have risen, batsmen have found the necessity of finding ways to keep the scoring rate as high as possible. For bowlers, it’s to find ways to restrict the batsmen. So, we have seen some brilliant innovations like reverse sweep, scoops, different ways of finding gaps and boundaries. The bowlers are getting better at delivering yorkers as well as different types of slower balls. These innovations filter into other formats of the game. So, it’s brilliant for cricket to witness this. I expect T10 becoming more prominent over the next decade, and I see the game progressing.
Some big coaching names have found this format difficult. How are you approaching your CPL stint and the upcoming IPL?
I have had three main experiences in T20 franchise cricket. The first was with Peshawar Zalmi in PSL, four-five years ago, where I was the assistant coach to Mohammed Akram. In the latest PSL, I was head coach at Multan Sultans. I think the game has moved on in a number of ways. Certainly the way analysis is used and valued now. I think some of the analysis is helping coaches and captains understand the game in a slightly different way. It’s a healthy thing. It will be a part of the game, innovating and developing.
Is coaching different in international cricket and T20 franchise cricket?
It is very different. (In international cricket) you are looking at progressive improvement. You are working on skills, physicality, understanding of the game; their understanding of themselves as players. You are looking for growth and development in medium to long term.
In franchise cricket, it’s more managing a group of players than perhaps coaching them; making them feel confident and ready for on-the-spot decision making that is becoming quicker and quicker, and more necessary as the game speeds up.
How would you work with a player having difficulties adjusting to different formats?
I would assist him in getting clarity about where his personal problems are, and how he wants to approach each format of the game. Self-awareness is one of the key aspects to being able to perform at the elite level—understanding yourself, and how you respond to different situations and understanding how you create pressure as a bowler, or how you balance risk-reward as a batsman. I think most players are quite adept at it these days, with the major change being that the batsmen are learning to hit the ball and be aggressive in the first step of their development these days. Earlier, defensive technique would have been the first thing that they would have learnt.
Do players sometimes struggle with the pressure of their price tag in franchise cricket?
I think there are all sorts of pressures that come at an elite sportsman’s way at certain times during their careers. One of the mental and emotional skills is to be able to deal with all those distractions and simplify the task that you have got when you are competing. Price-tag pressure is one distraction, but there are myriad other distractions that could come your way; distractions of expectations from coaches, or selectors, or owners, or your fellow players, or family, or the opposition. So all these could all derail your thought process, and take you away from the very simplest of things, which is really what you should be trying to do as a competitor—breaking down what are the important thoughts that you want at the critical moments, and training your mind to be able to think that way.