So many spinners

Posted by admin on January 18, 2008

Timycen Maruma showed the recognised batsmen how it's done yesterday in the tour match against a PCB Patrons XI. Top scoring in the second innings with 71, he was also Zimbabwe's highest individual scorer in the match, Brendan Taylor coming close behind with a first innings 64.

Zimbabwe are in a strange situation - never have they had so many spinners fighting for a place in the side. Prosper Utseya, the captain is an automatic selection. He has developed into a true wicket taker in the past 6 months, and coupled with his batting he has the potetial to be a true bowling allrounder ala Andrew Flintoff. I believe Utseya should bat at number four in First Class matches, as he has the potential to make big scores. His First Class batting average is over 20, and he has scored 45 in a Test match. By the end of his career, it is not unreasonable to expect a First Class average of between 30 and 40.

Ray Price has recently returned to the fold, and he is arguably a world class spinner. Whether he has passed his best - ie. the form he showed in 2003-04 - is yet to be seen. To put it in perspective, if he was in Australia, he would probably be fighting Brad Hogg for a place in the Test team. Like the other spinners, he is handy with the bat. He has played county cricket for many years against quality opposition, with success particularly in the domestic one day matches.

Sean Williams is an underused left-arm orthodox bowler. His spinners should be used more often, but it seems the selectors want him played as a specialist batsman. He has a First Class average in the high 40's, maybe it's not such a bad idea.

Graeme Cremer is perhaps the best First Class spinner, and a legspinner at that, in Zimbabwe - he has played 6 Test matches - yet he struggles to get a game. He has over 100 First Class wickets to his name, and he plays regularly in the Zimbabwe A team with a high degree of success. Like the other spinners, his batting his really improved. He has a First Class 150 to his name.

The revelation of 2007-08 though, would have to be Timycen Maruma. In 15 First Class matches, he has 60 wickets. He's played 2 ODI's against South Africa, but his selection was perhaps premature, and he took no wickets at a high economy rate. In domestic one day matches, he has a good average but his strike rate is perhaps a touch high. Maruma will develop into a true bowling allrounder, much like Utseya I expect. He has proven on several occasions against good opposition that he can be useful with the bat. Despite a First Class batting average of around 13/14, I think by the end of his career, 25-30 is within reach.

With all these spinners, who do you play? You can't play them all, even though they probably all deserve a place in the team.

Prosper Utseya and Sean Williams should be automatic selections for their captaincy and batting respectively. Of late, Zimbabwe have had a tendency to play three spinners - Utseya, Price and Maruma (with Williams and Keith Dabengwa also providing part time options), but in the full international matches, it seems slightly top heavy with spinners. There have been times when Gary Brent and Elton Chigumbura are the only pace bowlers, with Chamu Chibhabha coming on first change most times to a hammering. The selectors have rectified this by including Chris Mpofu recently.

So with a pace attack of Chigumbura (playing at number seven as a batting allrounder), Brent and Mpofu, that leaves two places for a spinner. Playing Utseya at number four as an allrounder means you can include an extra player. Ray Price is one of those players. With one place remaining, you have a bowling attack consisting of Elton Chigumbura, Gary Brent, Chris Mpofu, Prosper Utseya and Ray Price. Depending on the pitch, you might like to play an extra fast bowler, perhaps Tawanda Mupariwa. Most times, Zimbabwe will opt to play the extra spinner. Between Graeme Cremer and Timycen Maruma, it is a tough choice. I would be inclined to get some game time into Graeme Cremer - I think at Test level he has a better chance of taking wickets than Maruma, who hasn't yet played a Test. Both are capable batsman, and both are legspinners. Cremer is slightly older, 2 years in fact.

So, I would choose Graeme Cremer, although Timycen Maruma could come into the team at any time, in place of Cremer or even Price if he underperforms.

My final bowling attack would consist of: Prosper Utseya (batting at 4), Elton Chigumbura (batting at 7), Graeme Cremer (8), Gary Brent (9), Ray Price (10), Chris Mpofu (11).

Luckily for Zimbabwe, they have a very short tail. In the above tail, only Chris Mpofu does not have a First Class century to his name. Having decent allrounders allows them to pick so many bowlers, and over the next few years I would expect the Zimbabwe unit to develop into a very competitive team.