'Bowlers can also be good captains'

Written by: Suresh Parekh
Published: Tuesday, November 28, 2000, 16:00 [IST]
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Rajkot: Mohammed Ahmed Meman better known as the "Babu Meman" is the manager of the Zimbabwe cricket team, which is on its first full tour of India.

Babu Meman was a right arm off-spinner and right-handed lower order batsman, who played only one One-day International for Zimbabwe at Mumbai in Reliance World Cup in 1987.

He was not a successful cricketer, but none can deny his contribution to Zimbabwe cricket as an administrator, selector and manager. His knowledge of the game is very deep and he revels in talking about the developments in Zimbabwe cricket in the last decade.

Educated at Morgan High School, Harare, he played his most of his cricket for Universals Club and for Mashonaland. His short first-class career lasted from 1985 to 1988 and he also played for the Shropshire in 1978-80.

He also believes that bowlers can also be good captains. "I don't subscribe to the view that a bowler can't be a good captain," he said in an exclusive interview with Thatscricket.com. The following is an excerpt of the interview:

How does it feel to manage a side like Zimbabwe?

I am naturally happy to manage this side. I feel I'm honoured. I have been involved with the Zimbabwe cricket since the first tour to India in 1992-93 when we played our first Test at New Delhi. At that time I was the national selector and now I am the manager of the side. I am really enjoying my role here and in the team.

What suggestions would you make for the overall upliftment of Zimbabwe cricket?

I think our biggest problem is the depth of players. If we have depth of players, good talented cricketers then the cricket will automatically improve. There will be more competition amongst the players for their places and they will fight for it. Once that happens it will be a very healthy position and you can choose your side from the bunch of highly competitive players. With the establishment of the Cricket Academy, I am very hopeful to see that happen and perhaps very soon.

Do you subscribe to the view that Zimbabwe haven't cultivated the winning habit?

Of course we are concerned about that. I think basically it is the application by some of the senior cricketers who in tough situations will have to put their heads down and concentrate on the goal on hand. And some of the players of the side will have to take the responsibility to make the goals are reached, but that's not happening.

When Zimbabwe beat Pakistan in Pakistan it looked like they had arrived in the big league, but once again you seemed to have slid back, any comments?

That is what our problem is. I think we lack consistency. Winning and losing is a part of game, but we need to set up a sequence of wins. We have to be more consistent with our victories.

Don't you think that the side is missing a genuine match-winner?

Yes we don't have the players like Sachin or Wasim or somebody like that. So we have to rely on abilities of all players. But we do have the players like Flower brothers, Campbell, Heath Streak and couple of others who can make the difference. But you probably are right in saying that we don't have a match winner and have to depend on collective effort.

There have been too many changes in terms of captains and coaches, do you think that would damage the prospects of the team?

Yes, there has been a new captain every year. Alistair Campbell stepped down and Andy Flower took over. But, Andy did not want to carry on with the post and so we decided to make Heath Streak the captain. I'm not sure if these changes have affected the performance of the players. One thing is for sure, the players are now more professional in their approach.

Do you think a bowler can be a good captain?

Well South Africa have got Shaun Pollock as captain. Wasim Akram was a good captain. Bob Willis led the English side. I don't subscribe to the view that a bowler can't be a good captain. Heath is doing well and he has got a head on his shoulder. He is capable of leading the side from the front.

Was losing two front line players in Murray Goodwin and Neil Johnson a big blow?

Yes, it is a big blow because both were good players and helped our side to win many matches. Goodwin did a fantastic job and Neil as an all-rounder marvelled. But if you take it positively then it also gave chances to a couple of youngsters to stake their claim and that's good for cricket.

But wasn't it a premature retirement in the case of Johnson especially when he was going great guns?

I think it was a bit of political situation back home. I think one or two members in his family were not happy and that's why he went back. I think that was the main reason.

Now you have got a few young players, but how promising are they?

I think Travis Friend is a good prospect and he is only 19 years old. He did very well in the Limited Overs matches and I'm sure he must have learnt a lot on this tour. Madonda, Carlisle and couple of others are really good prospects.

Will the presence of Carl Rackemann as coach be very encouraging for the bowlers?

He is really helping our bowlers and so far he has done a good job. There is a little bit of problem in our batting department but that will be sorted out soon.

Recently Grant Flower was under scrutiny for "suspect" action, does that sort of a thing put pressure on the team?

No, Not really. He has played a lot of cricket. And it happened all of a sudden, but I don't think it has affected anybody including himself. I don't think he or any other player is in any sort of pressure.

Do you think Zimbabwe lack quality spinners except for Paul Strang?

Now we have got Brian Murphy and I think he will be a good back up for Paul Strang. We need one off spinner and if we get that then we will have a good spin department too.

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