‘Will miss the friendly people, but not the backstabbing ex-players’ – Grant Flower
In the last five years, the PCB has shuffled head coaches, bowling coaches, and fitness and fielding specialists. They played musical chairs with PCB chairmen while Zaka Ashraf and Najam Sethi jostled for power, before Ehsan Mani assumed the role last year. They never had a chief operating officer until Wasim Khan was finally appointed earlier this year, and five years ago, “PSL” were three random letters thrown together that would have meant nothing to anyone had you spray-painted them on the walls of the PCB headquarters.
While all that has changed over the last half a decade, Grant Flower has remained a quiet, unassuming fixture in the coaching setup. He was appointed five years ago after an overhaul of the national team management and worked with head coach Waqar Younis for two years, before becoming a key ally and confidante of Mickey Arthur during his three-year stint at the top in Pakistan cricket. It is the longest consecutive time a member of the coaching setup has ever served with Pakistan’s national side, and now that the PCB finally opted against renewing his contract for another term, ESPNcricinfo caught up with him about his time with the team.
In 5 years in Pakistan, what did you like best about living here?
The friendliness of the people.
What was the most frustrating thing about living in Pakistan?
The security aspect and the lack of freedom.
Proudest personal achievement?
Winning the Champions Trophy.
Most frustrating day with the Pakistan team?
Well, there were quite a few! Getting hammered by the West Indies in the first game of the World Cup that proved to be the nail in the coffin for our semi-final chances.
What will you miss the most about working in Pakistan?
The passion of the players and the natural flair and their love of the game. It was such a nice thing to see because they’ve got so much to gain by playing for Pakistan and so much to lose by not playing. It’s such a big thing for them and their families.
What won’t you miss about working in Pakistan?
Some of the backstabbing by ex-players. And a lot of the politics that happens within the TV channels, the journalists and some of the politics in the PCB itself. I won’t miss those, certainly.
Where do you rank Babar Azam among the players you have personally coached?
He’s probably the best bloke I’ve ever coached – certainly the best Pakistani I’ve ever coached.
Which Pakistan batsman doesn’t get the credit he deserves?
I think Haris Sohail is probably an underachiever – I think a lot of people haven’t seen the best of him yet.
Where do you see Pakistan’s top three in five years? Will it be the same three?
I’m not sure about Fakhar (Zaman); he’s got to get his technique a bit tighter, but the other two will definitely be there, no question about that.
What can the PCB do to ensure players maximise their potential and Pakistan isn’t left with unfulfilled talents?
Getting a stronger domestic structure in place. That will help massively.
Waqar Younis or Mickey Arthur?
What do you want to do in future?
Get another coaching job somewhere. Hopefully improve in some areas I wasn’t as proficient in. Maybe I’ve got to look at myself. Either become a batting coach or head coach elsewhere.
Did you think you could have taken a firmer line with some of the players who kept making the same mistakes?
It depends on your relationship with the players or how you get the best out of them. I think a lot of batting coaching is about confidence. Players having confidence in the batting coach and vice versa. And if you lose that confidence then the players aren’t going to believe in you and talk to you about the problems they’re having. So I think that’s one of the biggest things in coaching, having that relationship with the players.
I did do one strong interview after which a couple of players approached me and discussed what they thought of that. I did come hard at them at times, but you don’t want to break that trust, because you’re never going to repair it.
Which player improved the most in the five years you were there?
Babar Azam’s the obvious one. But also Imam-ul-Haq, I think he’s really improved. You’re going to see a lot more of him because he’s very driven. As long as he doesn’t get too far ahead of himself, I think he’s going to have a really good career.
Which player do you think hasn’t kicked on as much as you wanted him to?
I suppose I’d have to go for Fakhar Zaman. I’ve worked quite a lot with him, but he’s got such a different technique to others. He’s quite hard to work with, even though he’s a lovely guy. There’s a lot of rawness about him, but his results have been very inconsistent. But I think he’s good enough to make something of it, but he’s got a lot of work to do.
What would you like to say to Pakistan’s fans?
I just want to wish them all the best for the future and being supportive and passionate, which they already are. And have faith. Have faith in the players and stick behind them. Look for the positives as opposed to the negatives.