During another long interminable break on the 5th day of the 2nd Test between Pakistan and Zimbabwe, Andy Whittall the Zimbabwean off-spinner came onto IRC to answer some questions from those on-line. During the interview, Andy Flower also turned up and joined in.

Suhael Ahmed handled the interview whilst Travis Basevi was the moderator.

AndyW: Its nice to be here as we have a break in our game at the moment.

travis: [bakait] Why did you become a spin bowler? Who are the spinners you looked up to growing up?

AndyW: There is no real reason, I have always bowled spin since I was ten years old. I had no real heros as a youngster, however, more recently there are many spin bowlers in world cricket today who's talents I respect.

travis: [Afridi] Who do u consider the best off spinner in the world today? the straighter ball Saqlain has, why is it that not many bowlers can copy that?

AndyW: The two top test spinners must be Saqlain and Murli, and Murli 'cos he turns the ball so much and Saq because of his straighter top spinner. I am sure many people try ot imitate Saq's ball including myself However what is important at test level is to consistently bowl it well to create pressure otherwise it is not a useful variation.

travis: You're one of the few current players in Test Cricket to have played regularly for Cambridge University. English Uni cricket comes in for a lot of criticism. Is the standard really that bad, especially compared to Test cricket?

AndyW: The standard at Cambs varies from year to year as well as between players in each team. Cambs has produced many test cricketers so thus is a useful ground for breeding cricketers who want to also get a degree. It is difficult to compare the standard of Univ cricket to test cricket because test cricket is the ultimate challenge.

travis: What did you study? And did you complete it or is it on hold because of getting selected for Zimbabwe?

AndyW: I did a course called MET (Manufacturing Engineering) and yes I did complete it!

travis: [Creep] What in your opinion has been the contribution of young players like Olonga, Mbangwa and Johnson to your recent performances?

AndyW: Henry has been around for several years but his recent performances have been exceptional and he is now bowling with a lot of confidence. He is a very vital part of our attack. Mbangwa and Johnson are also playing very well at the moment and are ideal for the wickets we have encountered recently. It is very useful to have Neil as a very good front line bat as well.

travis: [Afridi] how many different balls do u have ??? (arm ball etc...)

AndyW: I have the obvious variations like arm balls, off spinner and as well as a couple of other variations I am working on :-)

travis: [KeyserSoze] : What are you're plans for the World Cup ?

Suhael: We have Andy Flower here too if there any questions for him please

AndyW: Hopefully I will be included in the squad as we are getting together a very useful ODI outfit and we intend to upset a few of the sides.

travis: [lawriecol] Andy Flower: explain how hard the batting high in the order and keeping is and has he ever had to do an "Alec Stewart and do the lot"

AF: Yes I have had to do the lot for about 2.5 years. At first i thought it went quite well but after a while it got very tiring mentally and started afeecting my keeping. It also started affecting my enjoyment of the game and thus I resigned.

travis: [igloo] Andy Flower: To what specific work/thinking/advice by Houghton can you attribute Zimbabwe's recent winning streak?

AF: I believe Dave is a very astute coach who understands the game and its finer points; this coupled with some confident cricket from a side which is now a more experienced unit, are reasons for out success.

travis: [Ricky1] For both Andys: What is your favourite food?

AF: My fav is just about everything except tripe!

AndyW: Yea thats quite a shock coming from AF! (he hates his food). I enjoy a good b-b-q wirh a few beers.

travis: [Afridi] For Andy Flower, U have haved faced Waqar, Wasim and Shoaib, tell us how each r different from each other

AF: I believe Wasim is the best of those bowlers, and Shoaib the quickest. Wasim has amazing ability to swing the ball either way with no change of action using the new ball or reverse swing with an older one. Waq who I daresay has lost a little pace (even tho he yorked me first ball in the first test) but is still swinging it out with the new ball and in with the rev swing. He still pitches the ball up more than most bowlers and thus while taking wickets can also be expensive. Shoiab's greatest assets at the moment are his genuine speed and stamina - he seems to be able to bowl at full pace for lengthy periods, although I wonder how long his body can sustain such a workload.

travis: [bakait] AF: Describe your emotions when you bat with Grant (Flower). Any fond memories of that 269 run partnership back in 1995?

AF: Well, I would'nt describe either of us as overly emotional. I do however, enjoy batting with Grant - his concentration tends to rub off on me and our contrasting styles seem to complement each other in a partnership. Occasionally he is a little intense for me.

travis: As a followup: what was the dressing room reaction to Grant's bowling haul in the tour match? (to AW:) has he been giving any tips and hints to rest of the Zim spinners?

AndyW: Grant bowled with great f and g to claim his career best figures. This was on a very flat batting wicket and put us into a good position at that stage to set them a target, for what turned out to be an exciting game. For the second part of the question; it is very useful to be touring with three other spinners as we help each other all the time.

travis: [Salman] To AF: Zimbabwe lost many matches from winning position, what do you think is the main reason behind that? Is it because of inexpereince?

AF: Partly, but that excuse is becoming less relevant these days, with a number of players having played 20 to 30 tests. I think concentration levels and desire play major parts in those instances.

AF+AW: Last questions please as we have to go to lunch

travis: [igloo] For both: How would you react if an affirmative action directive for including more cricketers of colour were introduced in Zimbabwe?

AF+AW: We both believe that selection should always be done on merit, with colour playing no part in the decision. We believe any bias towards colour is wrong and should not be justified by anybody.

AF+AW: Its been nice chatting to all of you. Thank you

travis: Thank you Andy and Andy, good luck with the rest of the tour

On-line chat

Date-stamped : 14 Dec1998 - 13:17