Flower emerges all the stronger as England must prove there is life without KP
22:37 GMT, 13 August 2012
Nasser Hussain summed it up perfectly in these pages. If Andy Flower can deal with Robert Mugabe then he can handle Kevin Pietersen quite comfortably.
The England team director has emerged from the biggest test of his leadership with his integrity intact and with a stronger grip than ever at the helm of the team.
It takes serious guts to drop a batsman who has just played one of the great modern innings for a Test that England must win to salvage both the series against South Africa and their world No 1 status. Yet Flower, along with Hugh Morris, another man of strength and integrity, made a bold and brave call for the good of the team.
Steely: Andy Flower has emerged with dignity and strength
Flower cannot have expected it to be like this when England swept India aside to go to the top of the world last summer.
It was meant to be the start of something very special, the beginning of a ride that would end with England establishing themselves as one of the best teams to play the game.
Instead, Flower has had to deal with a slump in results and, much more damagingly, the whole Pietersen affair that has seemingly been gnawing away within the England team for some time. Not to mention the loss of another frontline batsman from this series in Ravi Bopara because of personal problems.
It would have been easy to try to patch things up as best England could and send Pietersen into battle at Lord’s this week knowing he is never more dangerous than when the eyes of the cricketing world are on him.
Rising to the occasion: Pietersen would have been dangerous at Lord's
Instead Flower, with the backing of the ECB, took the long-term option knowing that England might have to suffer some short-term pain in the final Test as a consequence.
It is typical of the man. Flower, as he showed with his black-armband protest about the death of democracy in his native Zimbabwe, will never duck a challenge and he will not have dropped Pietersen and put his international career in jeopardy lightly. He has seen the wider picture, seen a man totally isolated within his team and decided enough is enough.
What is more worrying for England is not the possibility of losing at Lord’s without Pietersen but whether the affair has eroded any of Flower’s enthusiasm for his job. As Hussain also pointed out, he will have used up a lot of mental energy in dealing with a situation that has proved a mighty distraction and the last thing England need is for the whole sorry saga to push Flower closer to the exit. He will be a devilishly hard man to replace.
Flower has talked of the pressures on his family that spending so much time away from home creates and those close to him believe he will not continue in his post beyond the 2015 World Cup.
If the cap fits: Flower has transformed England's fortunes
The last week or so has felt more like the time when Flower took over at the start of 2009 with England in turmoil after a clash between coach Peter Moores and a certain Kevin Pietersen.
Now it is over to the players to again show, as they have done in one-day and Twenty20 cricket already, that there is life without KP.