Former Zimbabwe wicketkeeper-batsman Andy Flower says he regrets not carrying on with his campaign against the government after the famous black armband protest in the 2003 World Cup that forced him and team-mate Henry Olonga to leave the country.
Flower and Olonga wore black armbands in the opening match of the 2003 World Cup to “mourn the death of democracy in Zimbabwe”, launching an unprecedented attack against the Robert Mugabe government.
The protest was hailed by international media but criticised by senior Zimbabwean political figures and the two cricketers had to give up their international careers and flee to England.
The 52-year-old said he carries “slight guilt” for not doing more for the cause.
“I wish that we’d campaigned more thereafter. We didn’t seem … I certainly had a young family. I didn’t feel like I had the energy or the time or the focus away from playing, to devote to campaigning,” he said in the ‘Following On Cricket Podcast’.
“So there’s a regret, and a slight guilt actually, that there are so many genuinely brave people that remain in Zimbabwe, that work every day for correcting or bringing attention to human rights problems in the country … Ours was a very small gesture to try and highlight some of that. Theirs is the real work.”
Flower, who has scored 4794 runs in 63 Tests and 6786 runs in 213 ODIs for Zimbabwe, said he should have been wiser to create a bigger impact with his protest.
“… I tended to shy away from the media, and I didn’t know how to use it wisely. With hindsight, we could have done a much more impactful global impact,” he said.
“But we simply wanted to make the statement, ally that to a symbol, which was the black armband, and then bring the media focus to bear on the human rights abuses that were happening in the country. In that regard, it worked to a certain extent.”
Flower said after moving to England he and Olonga had to focus on rebuilding their lives.
“After Henry and I had to leave the country, we both ended up in England. And we both wanted to sort of move on with our careers and our lives. One of the imperatives was to create an income, so I wanted to focus on my playing career, Henry wanted to focus on his music and rebuilding his life.”
Flower had a successful career as England head coach where he led the Test team to No. 1 spot in the world, won the 2010 World Twenty20 title and also achieved Ashes success in Australia in 2010-11.
However, Flower’s relation with Kevin Pietersen was ruined after the infamous “text gate” scandal where the former England skipper had sent unsavoury messages about his then captain Andrew Strauss to the visiting South African team during a Test match in 2012.
Following the incident, Pietersen was left out of the side for the final Test. He was recalled for the 2013/14 Ashes series Down Under, which England lost 0-5.
Flower resigned as the head coach after the 2013/14 Ashes series and Pietersen too was sacked just days after the Zimbabwean’s departure.
Looking back, Flower said he could have built a better relation with Pietersen.
“I think looking back at my previous experience, I know that I could have done certain things better,” he said.
“I was going to say I’m sure Kevin might think the same with regards to himself and hindering things but actually I’m not sure about that. But I know that I could have, with a little bit of wisdom and effort, built a better relationship with Kevin.”