Andy Flower, the former Zimbabwe wicketkeeper-batsman, has said he regrets not campaigning more for the cause following the famous black armband protest he carried out at the 2003 World Cup along with team-mate Henry Olonga.
Flower and Olonga were recognised as two of the most courageous individuals in the sport after they wore black armbands in the first World Cup match Zimbabwe ever hosted, and released a statement saying they were “mourning the death of democracy in our beloved Zimbabwe”.
Their protest drew international focus to the human rights abuses in Zimbabwe, even though it meant the two players had to abandon their Zimbabwe careers and flee to England. In hindsight, however, Flower said he wished he’d done more.
“I regret not being wiser about how to maximise the impact of it,” Flower told Neil Manthorp in the Following On Cricket Podcast. “If we had been a little more knowledgeable, and if I hadn’t had this inherent… not distrust of the press, but 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, if we’d used the media better.
“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 also now wishes he had continued to campaign even after moving to England. “I also, with hindsight, regret that my focus moved very soon thereafter,” he said. “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.
“I don’t want to sound idealistic, but I suppose at that time my convictions were stronger than my fears.”#OnThisDay 17 years ago, Henry Olonga and Andy Flower took a historic stand. That’s why they make this list. https://t.co/3PiJPk7CHf
— Wisden (@WisdenCricket) February 10, 2020
“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.
“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, that fight for the opposition party, that fight to make things better in the country, that work for charity organisations and that do so much good in our country. Ours was a very small gesture to try and highlight some of that. Theirs is the real work.”