Zimbabwe’s Flower-power

Highest Impact ODI Players – Zimbabwe

Andy and Grant Flower during their playing days

Continuing in our series of pieces on each country’s ODI history, we go to Zimbabwe. From 1983 to 2012, Zimbabwe played 407 matches and won 107 with a win-loss ratio of 0.37. Their highest score is 351, lowest 35.

We present three lists – of players, batsmen and bowlers. The minimum qualification to be on these lists is to have played 50 matches. A match is considered in this system only when there is a result, and if the player has bowled or batted, as the case may be.

Here are the highest impact ODI players in Zimbabwe’s history.

Andy Flower’s name has been synonymous with Zimbabwean cricket over the years and it should not at all surprising to see him top this list as the highest impact player for Zimbabwe in their ODI cricket history. His measured approach at the crease and the calmness he portrayed throughout his career not only as a batsman but also as a wicket-keeper and later as a captain also makes him one of the highest impact ODI players from around the world. In fact, Andy Flower is the fifth-highest impact wicket-keeper batsman in the history of ODI cricket. His importance and contribution to the Zimbabwean cricket scene can also be understood from his 2 SDs – a terrific achievement considering Zimbabwe as a whole has had only 4 SD performances in their ODI history.
If it was Andy Flower who held Zimbabwe from the batting front, Heath Streak was most definitely his counterpart in the bowling department. He is the closest player in the entire Zimbabwean cricketing history to be regarded as an all-rounder (Both Batting and Bowling IMPACT over 1) and narrowly misses being regarded as one due to his Batting IMPACT falling short by a margin of 0.06. Nevertheless, his position as one of the legends of Zimbabwean cricket is quite obvious considering he is also the highest impact Zimbabwean bowler in their ODI cricket history. It is also interesting to note that his singular SD performance for Zimbabwe came as a batsman instead of a bowler and again goes on to show his all-round effectiveness for his country.

One of the most promising players of his generation, Tatenda Taibu deserved a lot more than what he finally achieved as a player for his country. In the starting days of his international career, Zimbabwean cricket was under a crisis due to their political reasons and even though he wasn’t a victim directly, he had lost a lot of ground on garnering valuable experience and found himself captaining a second-string side at a tender age of 21. Given his circumstances though, Taibu performed remarkably well for his country and it is interesting to see him as the third-highest impact Zimbabwean player of all-time and the second-best wicket-keeper batsman for Zimbabwe after Andy Flower.

Grant Flower - the other part of the Flower duo, comes in at the 4th position on the list and is also the second-highest impact Zimbabwean batsman in the ODI format after his brother Andy. He was handy with his left-arm off-breaks as his Bowling IMPACT suggests and very narrowly misses out on being classified as an all-rounder. One of the mainstays of the Zimbabwean line-ups in the 90s, Grant Flower was criticised about under-performing continuously given the amount of talent he had and it is his failure rate as a player which distanced him from his brother as one of the greats in the ODI format. Nevertheless, he proved his worth from time to time for Zimbabwean cricket and can take solace in the form of being the highest capped player in the history of Zimbabwean ODI cricket history.

The only bowlers other than Heath Streak who make it to the list are Paul Strang and Eddo Brandes. Alistair Campbell, also makes it to the list primarily because he is the third-highest impact Zimbabwean batsman and also because of his singular SD.

Zimbabwe’s rise as a competitive team in the 90’s can also be understood from the fact that as many as 8 players on this list featured in the Zimbabwean team of that era. They managed to take the team to new heights and showed signs of promise entering the new millennium. However, as luck would have it, the majority of the team got disbanded due to reasons more political than sporting. The rebuilding process of this team never got realised and the presence of only one player from the present generation on this list (Brendan Taylor) is a pointer to that.

Unsurprisingly, it is Andy Flower who heads the list as the highest impact Zimbabwean batsman in their ODI history and his supremacy is pretty much evident by his impact in all the individual parameters. Out of the 6 individual batting parameters, he tops the list in four of them for Zimbabwe and in the two parameters that he misses out (Chasing IMPACT, Strike Rate IMPACT), he comes a close second. Throughout his career, he was burdened by the relative ineffectiveness of his fellow batsmen and it was more or less the responsibility of Andy Flower to carry the Zimbabweans under immense pressure — a point which can also be understood from the fact that he actually has the 5th -highest Pressure IMPACT for any batsman in the world and the highest for a wicket-keeper batsman. His 2 SDs for a country which has had only 4 SDs in total is also a testimony to his brilliance and maybe also gives an idea of the heights he could have reached as a player in an era where his team did not win many tournaments.

Both Grant Flower and Alistair Campbell in their respective time frames have been crucial cogs in the Zimbabwean batting wheel although the amount of talent they portrayed while batting did not always result in superlative performances for their team and it is maybe for this very reason that their names don’t rate as highly as it should have been. Both of them have had more than a reasonable impact on their individual batting parameters (at par with some of the high impact batsmen in ODI history) but it is their consistency which has hurt them and their team more often than not. A failure rate of 53% and 57% for Flower and Campbell respectively, proves the point that they under-achieved to a great extent at the international level.

Brendan Taylor is the only player from the modern generation of Zimbabwean cricketers to feature on this list and even though his failure rate has been on the higher side (57%), he is still one of the most dependable Zimbabwean batsman in the current line-up and he incidentally also has the credit of having the highest batting impact performance (128 not out off 120 balls v New Zealand, Harare, 2011) by a Zimbabwean batsman in a match context in its history of ODI cricket. Presently, the captain of the ODI unit, his performances hold the key for the revival of Zimbabwean cricket and he is definitely one player to look out for in the future.

The stories that unfold on various batting parameters are revealing.

When it comes to Runs Tally IMPACT (proportion of match runs made through career), the highest impact batsmen are Andy Flower, Grant Flower and Alistair Campbell.

The highest Strike Rate IMPACT batsmen (highest strike rates relative to all the matches in their careers) are DL Houghton, Andy Flower and Brendan Taylor.

The best Pressure IMPACT batsmen (those who absorbed the most pressure that came about due to fall of wickets) are Andy Flower, Grant Flower and Brendan Taylor.

The batsmen with the highest Partnership Building IMPACT (who built the most partnerships in the middle) are Andy Flower, Grant Flower and Alistair Campbell.

The best Chasing IMPACT batsmen (who registered the highest impact while chasing a target) are Murray Goodwin, Grant Flower and Andy Flower.

The batsmen with the lowest failure rates (a failure is seen in this system as an inability to register an IMPACT of even 1 in a match) are Andy Flower, Grant Flower and Stuart Carlisle.

Top 3 Batting Innings (Series/tournament context):

1. Andy Flower – 73 off 104 v Pakistan, Harare, 1995 – Batting IMPACT 5.62

Going into this 3rd and final ODI encounter, trailing the series 0-1 against a Pakistani team they hadn’t been able to defeat in their previous 8 encounters, Zimbabwe needed a source of inspiration especially from the batting front and they got it in the form of a resilient Andy Flower. Opening the batting, he managed to stave off the initial loss of his brother, Grant before guiding the rest of the Zimbabwean batting line-up to a score of 222 runs against a bowling attack comprising the likes of Wasim Akram and Aaqib Javed. In reply, Pakistan fell short by a margin of 74 runs to give Zimbabwe a share of the spoils.

2. Andy Flower – 81 off 86 v New Zealand, Auckland, 2001 – Batting IMPACT 4.90

Chasing 274 against New Zealand, Zimbabwe got off to a terrible start and were struggling at 14-2 when Andy Flower walked in at the crease. Soon, the situation worsened and the scorecard read 64-5 when Flower put together a partnership of 82 runs with Dirk Viljoen for the sixth wicket after which he perished himself, leaving Zimbabwe needing a further 94 runs to win with only three wickets in hand. As it turned out, Zimbabwe did eventually win the match and the series although it required a superlative batting performance from Heath Streak in the end.

3. Heath Streak – 79 not out off 67 v New Zealand, Auckland, 2001 – Batting IMPACT 4.81

Coming in at 146-6 with Zimbabwe still needing a further 128 runs for victory, Heath Streak’s main role at the crease was to give the maximum possible strike to a well-set Andy Flower. However with Flower’s dismissal and Zimbabwe needing 94 runs further, Streak moulded into an attacking approach knowing that only tail-enders were to follow him. He set-up a brilliant counter attack and alongwith Travis Friend stitched a crucial 69 runs 8th wicket partnership before finishing off the match in the penultimate over sharing a 19 runs unbeaten stand for the last wicket with Brian Murphy. The win also resulted in Zimbabwe’s first ever ODI series victory in international cricket.

The above performances are within a series/tournament context. When it comes to a match context, Brendan Taylor’s 128 not out off 120 balls v New Zealand (Harare, 2011) registers as the highest impact batting performance in the history of Zimbabwean ODI cricket. Grant Flower’s unbeaten knock of 96 off 152 balls v England (Nottingham, 2003)  and Andy Flower’s 142 not out off 128 balls v England (Harare, 2001) are the second and the third highest impact batting performances in a match context, respectively.

Heath Streak, as expected, heads the list as the highest impact Zimbabwean bowler in their ODI history and tops three of the individual bowling parameters. Even though he doesn’t have a single SD as a bowler it is his consistency (failure rate of only 39%) which sets him apart from the rest of his teammates.

Eddo Brandes makes it to the list as a result of him having the highest Pressure Building IMPACT amongst all the Zimbabwean bowlers whereas Paul Strang makes it on account of his superior Partnership Breaking IMPACT (highest for Zimbabwe).

Even though Ray Price hasn’t been a prolific wicket-taker for Zimbabwe in the ODI format, it is his ability to stifle and choke the opposition which puts him on this list. His Economy IMPACT is the fourth-best for a spinner in the history of ODI cricket (after Muralitharan, Vettori and Harbhajan) and is by far the best for a Zimbabwean bowler.

The highest impact players in all bowling parameters are quite revealing.

When it comes to Top/Middle-order Wickets Tally IMPACT (wickets taken from nos. 1-7 in most cases), the highest impact bowlers are Heath Streak, Eddo Brandes and Douglas Hondo.

Lower-order Wickets Tally IMPACT (batsmen nos. 8-11) – highest impact bowlers are Heath Streak, Paul Strang and Gary Brent.

The highest Economy IMPACT bowlers (lowest economy rates relative to all the matches in their careers) are Ray Price, Andy Whittall and Prosper Utseya.

The highest impact Partnership-breaking bowlers are Paul Strang, Heath Streak and Grant Flower.

The bowlers with the highest Pressure Building IMPACT (taking quick wickets to put opposition under pressure) are Eddo Brandes, Paul Strang and Heath Streak.

The bowlers with the lowest failure rate (a failure is seen in this system as an inability to register an IMPACT of even 1 in a match) are Heath Streak, Ray Price and Paul Strang.

Zimbabwe, so far in their history of ODI cricket, hasn’t had even one series-defining performance (SD) by a bowler. However, when it comes to a match context, Henry Olonga’s 6-19 v England (Cape Town, 2000) registers as the highest impact bowling performance in the history of Zimbabwean ODI cricket. Heath Streak’s 4-18 v Pakistan (Sharjah, 1997) and Paul Strang’s 4-32 v Sri Lanka (Sharjah, 1998) are the second and the third-highest impact bowling performances in a match.

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