Heath Streak has issued a robust defence of his decision to return to international cricket, insisting the fight he took to the Zimbabwe authorities had borne fruit.

Former Zimbabwe colleague Andy Flower recently criticised Streak for abandoning his boycott of international cricket. None of the changes that Streak had demanded from his governing body had been forthcoming, he said.

Furthermore, Flower suggested that Streak was responsible for leading the other white players into the boycott.

"He led them [the rebel players] into it and is now back playing. It is poor form," Flower said.

"There have not been the wholesale changes they were demanding but they want to go back - I don't know what the reasons are. But you don't make a big stand then, when nothing changes, go back."

But Streak has insisted that Flower is "not up to speed" with events within Zimbabwe Cricket, and is talking from a position of ignorance.

"I don't think he's fully aware of what's been going on," Streak said. "Andy seems unaware of the ad hoc committee charged with looking into the problems with cricket in Zimbabwe.

"Obviously Andy's at Essex with his brother Grant, and I'm a bit surprised that Grant hasn't informed him of some of these things. But perhaps he's not aware either."

Central to Streak's argument is that the rebels did win concessions from Zimbabwe Cricket. Although the personnel on the selection committee remain unchanged - a point that was supposedly key to their demands - Streak insists that the 'rebels' won on the more important issues.

"We did receive written undertakings from Zimbabwe Cricket to deal with selection issues," Streak says. "There were some concessions.

"There was an undertaking not to have any goals or quotas over selection [of black players]. Selection will now be on merit and merit only. The manner in which teams are selected is now more professional and much better."

But what of the continued presence of Ozias Bvute and Max Ebrahim on the selection panel? Originally the rebels had insisted the pair would must go.

"If you go into any sort of negotiations with an attitude that you are not going to budge then you will not make much progress," Streak says. "If we had been completely unwavering then I don't think we could have had any reconciliation. There had to be some give and take.

"The important thing now is that we can look to the future, work together. I hope people can put all this behind us." There will be those who remain cynical about Streak's motives for returning. But it appears his distress deepened as he watched the side for whom he has given so much humiliated by the likes of Bangladesh. He simply had to help.

"I'm passionate about playing cricket for Zimbabwe," he says with some feeling. "I don't know if suspension from Test cricket was imminent [before the rebels returned], but I do think that if other countries can see some improvement, they will be more patient.

"As a national athlete I know that a lot of people take pride in our performances; in us representing our country. People derive enjoyment if we do well. It's a time out from their hardships, be they economical or political.

"I hope people give Zimbabwe time. Things have stabilised now and we have some talented but raw players. It will take a bit of time, but we will be competing again.

"The most disappointing thing is that we keep having to rebuild the Zimbabwe team. We've lost so many quality players. Guys like Murray Goodwin and Neil Johnson should still be playing for us. No-one questioned our status when we had guys like that in the team."

And Streak rubbished the suggestion that his decision to return to the Zimbabwe side was in any way linked to the recent elections in Zimbabwe. Perhaps naive to the public relations success such a move offered to President Mugabe, Streak is insistent that his focus was purely on cricketing matters.

"This had nothing do with the elections," he says. "I wouldn't have gone back if I thought it was going to be used for political reasons. Most sports people don't like to be drawn into the political arena."

Streak's relationship with Flower hasn't been improved by the episode.

That's a shame for both men clearly have their country's best interests at heart, they just differ in their methods.

Flower, however, has settled in England while Streak's family remains on a farm in Zimbabwe. His commitment to his country is beyond question. "Andy and I have had our differences," Streak admits. "I saw him at Lord's last week and he didn't mention this and before that I'd hardly spoken to him for months.

"He suggests that I forced guys [the other white 'rebels'] to follow my stance. Obviously I was pleased that guys stood with me, but I didn't push or force anyone into anything. I want to make that very clear.

"But Andy is right in some ways. I agree that the quality of domestic cricket in Zimbabwe has to be addressed, because the gap between that and Test cricket is huge."