Cricket interview

Alan Butcher, former Zimbabwe and Surrey coach

If you’re looking for a new cricket book for your winter reading list, you will do no worse than logging on to Amazon and searching for ‘The Good Murungu?: A Cricket Tale of the Unexpected’. The book chronicles former county cricketer and one-time England Test batsman Alan Butcher’s three years in charge of the Zimbabwe national team. Amazon describes it as an ‘insight into the at times schizophrenic nature of cricket in this intriguing country.’ Part cricket memoir, part travelogue, part ode to Zimbabwe, part lament for a beautiful-but-troubled country, Alan describes the process of moulding a team out of a dispirited and disillusioned group of players.

And if that’s not yet enough to tempt you to part with your cash, we’ve caught up with Alan this month to look at his journey from a youngster, playing cricket for Beckenham CC, all the way through to his African adventure.

So what made Alan put pen to paper and write a book? “I woke up at 2.30am one morning and I just had this lightbulb moment that I wanted to tell the story,” remarked Alan. “I opened up the laptop and started writing. At no stage did I have any thoughts about a plan to get it published. It was just fun writing it and getting all the thoughts off my chest.”

But the book did get published and it’s already on its second print run and has been put forward for consideration for this year’s William Hill sports book of the year award.

So where did it all start for this former opening batsmen. “I started playing cricket at Beckenham Cricket Club, but I really learnt my cricket in Australia.”

At the age of 10, Alan and his family moved to South Australia. During his five years down under Alan played for South Australia at two sports, cricket and football. But cricket was always the first love. “My local club was South Road and I then played a bit for Brighton before playing youth cricket at Glenelg.” Alan success at Glenelg saw him get selected for a B Grade district side called Junior Colts, which to use Alan’s words were a "bit like the MCC young pros."

After five years in Australia, the Butcher family returned home to the UK. “We came back from Australia for family reasons. Personally, I would have been more than happy to have stayed. It was a great place to grow up, especially for lads who played sport.”

On his return to the UK, Alan signed for Surrey, to the frustration of his mother! “My mother had dreams for me to come back and play for Kent! But, we lived in Surrey and in those days you had to play for the county that you lived in. I trialled at the Oval and they offered me a contract near enough straight away. However, it was decided that I should carry on a school and get some O-levels. If I’m honest, I got an English A-level but never really did benefit from the O-levels - although they did always help with the Telegraph crosswords!”

Alan eventually made his debut for Surrey in a John Player League encounter away at Leicestershire, in 1971. “I made my debut as an opening bowler, rather than a batsman. Both Bob Willis and Geoff Arnold were injured and we had a shoestring staff at that stage. The debut went alright. I didn’t have a lot of pace but I was accurate with the ball and bowled a good length which was accurate enough to trouble batsmen.”

Figures of 6 overs for just 10 runs was an excellent return. However, with Surrey bowled out for just 116, his first experience with the bat was a painful one. “I got hit on the inside thigh by Australian opening bowler Graham MacKenzie. I’d never been hit that hard in all my life. The next day I played club cricket and was nearly run out trying to take a single to third man, my leg ceased up!”

And that was the challenge for Alan - the increased skill of the bowlers. But his upbringing in Australia had given him good preparation. Remember, this was an era which included the likes of Holding, Garner, Marshall, Lillee, Thompson et al. “From 1976, there was more and more pace. But I found my time in Australia helped me. Playing B grade and district cricket against strong Australians - who also played Aussie Rules in the winter - meant they bowled with some tremendous gas. They didn’t mind bouncing a 13 or 14 year old. I handled that well and I actually quite enjoyed it. It was fun. So I didn’t find pace that much of a problem. The difficult aspect was the accuracy and you get less balls to score from. I had to learn to be more patient.”

And learn he did. During Alan’s time at Surrey, he enjoyed a successful opening partnership with Graham Clinton. The pair enjoyed 19 century stands as openers, including a 277 against Yorkshire in 1984. “Having a reliable opening partnership makes such a difference to the middle order of a team, because if you have stroke players coming in, and ou’ve seen off the new ball and got the bowlers tired, they can benefit. It makes a huge difference to a team’s ability to post a big total and put the opposition under pressure.”

One amusing story Alan shared, was about an agreement he and Clinton had when facing the quick bowlers. “We had an agreement that we would always share out the batting against the quicks so one of us wouldn’t get stuck up one end. We’d try and get the other off strike to share the load.”

Sounds fair. Until one game at Old Trafford, when Surrey faced a Lancashire team, which included the hostile Michael Holding. “I remember we won the toss and put Lancashire into bat. We had a great day and bowled them out cheaply. The downside for me and Clint was we had to see out six overs at the end of the day. So Michael Holding had three overs to throw at us. He kicked off his run up from pretty much at the sightscreen and there was nobody fielding in front of me, apart from someone fielding at short-leg who was wishing me good luck. His first delivery bounced over the keeper’s head into the sightscreen for four byes! The rest were length balls that came through at about throat height, at pace! A couple hit me on the bat handle, one went down the leg side, and I swayed away from another. I could see Clint’s eyes getting wider and wider as the over went on. I walked down to him at the end of that first over, as you do, expecting him to meet me half way; I carried on walking and he turned his back on me. I said ‘here Clint, what’s up? he replied: ‘you know that agreement we’ve got you can f&ck off’. I spent the rest of that session fending off Holding!”

I asked Alan, what it was like facing those bowlers without a helmet. “I faced Holding, Roberts and Daniel without a helmet. You never thought about it. I remember at Lords, walking out to face Wayne Daniel. I put the cap on and walked out and honestly didn’t think about it.”

Not long after though, helmets were introduced for the players and after a while Alan knew the time had come to put safety first. “There eventually came a time, when I did think about wearing a helmet and I reasoned that if I was thinking about it, I probably should start wearing it. So I did from that point on. It wasn’t comfortable at all to begin with, but I had seen the consequences of people not wearing them.”

In 1979, Alan was picked to play for England against India in a Test match at The Oval. It was to be his only Test appearance and he was never selected to play for England again, despite the opinion of the then England captain Mike Brearley, who rated him one of the top players of fast bowling in the county game. A player who averaged between 1,300 and 1,700 runs each season during his time at Surrey.

“It was disappointing. Very disappointing. It was the usual thing, I got picked for the last Test match of the series at the Oval because of an injury to Wayne Larkins. Wayne had been earmarked for the tour that winter to Australia. He broke his finger so I was in for him and I knew I had to do something special, as he would have recovered for the tour.”

Scores of 14 and 20 meant Alan didn’t cement his place. “I enjoyed the experience. It was a good Test match. But there were certain things that did disappoint me. For example, I can’t remember being told where I was actually going to be batting in the order. I eventually found out 15 minutes before the start of play. As I put my pads on, I was pretty calm but as I walked out, Alec Bedsor, who was chairman of selectors, called me into a corner and said ‘don’t do anything bloody stupid out there will you?’ Very encouraging words – I hope they don’t do that now.”

Understandably, that didn’t put Alan in the greatest frame of mind to go and face his first ball in Test match cricket. “India bowled a good length. A few deliveries were wide outside off stump and in a county game I probably would have had a waft at a few, but in my first Test match and with those ‘encouraging’ words ringing in my ears, I kept leaving the ball. I only got to 14 by lunch, but I was feeling more comfortable; then I nicked one and got out. These things happen. At the end of the day, I didn’t do enough to get on that plane ahead of Wayne Larkins.”

Although Alan’s international career was short-lived, his county career was far from so. Over 22,000 first class runs were scored during his time at both Surrey and Glamorgan at an average of 36.32, together with just shy of 150 first class wickets. Impressive statistics.

“We were a good side at Surrey. It was great to win the Gillette Cup in 1982, after being on the losing side for the last three. Those finals were big days in the cricket calendar. You always got big crowds and there was always a great atmosphere at Lords. We were close a couple of times in the County Championship too. I was proud to have played in that era, with so many fine bowlers. It was really tough cricket. Teams were allowed 2 overseas players, so all of the best players in the world played over here. It was hard work, but good fun and enjoyable.”

In 1986, Alan made the decision to move on from Surrey after 15 years to head west, to the Welsh county of Glamorgan. “I should probably have left a bit earlier. I was fed up with the way things were going at the club and how I was playing. It wasn’t a difficult decision. If I’m honest, I was a little unsure of Glamorgan. At the time they weren’t a very good side and moving from a big Test match ground to Sophia Gardens (as it was then) was a big adjustment. It was two totally different set-ups. But, I quickly got used to that and it was good for me as I began to think that I was the best player there and that made me take responsibility and that brought the best out of me. I played really well and it was possibly the best period of my career. We had a lot of good players at Surrey, but I felt that if I nicked off, someone else would score runs and you might not always be 100 percent focused. Not deliberately, but maybe just as a consequence of having so many more, good players. At Glamorgan, I knew I had to get runs. I had to concentrate, work hard and score runs.”

As mentioned in our interview with Hugh Morris, Alan took over as captain, after Hugh had stepped down from the position. “Hugh was young and captaincy was affecting his game. He had big ambitions of playing for England and felt captaincy was holding him back. Tony Lewis, the chairman, asked me if I would take over and I really enjoyed it. When I first arrived at Glamorgan it wasn’t such a young side. The players had been there a while and were just chugging along. There wasn’t the competition for places. Tony Lewis and I made the decision to get rid of some players and promote some of the youngsters. I found that brought the best way out of me as captain to bring players through. I felt we managed to change the mindset of the players and in some ways the club and its members to. Previously we’d get beaten by a side like Middlesex and the reaction would be that it’s Middlesex it’s expected. And we did change. Eventually (after I left) the team ended up winning the title.”

One of the proudest games for Alan during his time at Glamorgan came in 1991, when he played against his son Mark, who was making his debut for Surrey, in a Sunday League match at The Oval. I asked Alan if it was an interesting week in the Butcher household, in the lead up to the game? “We didn’t actually know! Glamorgan were playing at the Oval for a championship game. In those days, the championship game would start on a Saturday, then continue on Monday, with a Sunday League game sandwiched in between. I had a long standing knee problem and decided I wasn’t going to play on the Sunday to ensure I got through the Championship match ok. However, in the Surrey tavern on the Saturday night, Ian Greig told me that Mark was playing tomorrow. That was it, my knee was suddenly better! I just thought I can’t miss this so I went to Matt Maynard, who was going to captain the side and explained the situation. He said I had to play. Mark was 17 at the time and I remember we were winning the game quite easily, when Mark came into bat at number 7. He played well and in the end he needed to hit the last ball for six to win the game. He said to me afterwards he had a plan. He knew he was going to receive a ball in the block hole, so thought he would step down the wicket so the bowler would drop his length, and then go back into his crease to then get underneath it and hit it on the up and out of the ground. As it turned out, I took my time to set the field and found myself at long on, thinking he’d have to hit it over my head to win the match. The bowler ran up, bowled the ball into the block hole and Mark just stood still and hit it into the ground. I said to him afterwards what happened, and he just replied that I took so long to set the field, he forgot his plan. Tough game son! But it was a proud moment.”

Mark of course went on to a good career with England and is now impressing people with his media work on Sky Sports. “He’s quite good isn’t he? I enjoyed that 90s documentary he did for Sky. I’m getting a lot of people coming up to me, unsolicited and saying good things.”

Back to the cricket, and in 1992 injury struck Alan, and he was forced into retirement. “It was a massive disappointment as I felt I was still playing really well and I knew that I was still capable of scoring enough runs. But I just couldn’t shake the injury off. Even now it still affects me so I can’t look back and think if I just gave it another six months.”

And Alan shouldn’t have any regrets. He had a great career during an era when some of the game’s greatest players played the game. “Barry Richards and Viv Richards were the top batsmen I played against. John Edrich and Geoff Arnold were outstanding players and then there was the West Indian influx. It was unfortunate that I didn’t play against them for England, but it was always a great challenge playing against them in county cricket. Holding was definitely the quickest, but I found the others gave me different problems. Croft had his funny action. Garner had the height and bounce. It was a tough era of county cricket.”

After Alan’s retirement, the former batsmen took on coaching roles at Surrey and Essex. “I initially took over at Essex after Keith Fletcher got the job with England. Goochie had retired as captain and Paul Prichard had taken over and we were building a good relationship. Then Keith got relieved of the England job and came back to Essex. I had been looking forward to the season, because I felt Pritch would need a bit more guidance from the coach than someone like Goochie would, so I was looking forward to a slightly enhanced coaching role, but then Keith coming back put paid to that. At just about the same time, Graham Dilley had given up his role at Surrey running the second team.”

Surrey were a strong team in county cricket. “The team had won championships, one day trophies and had a good side, full of England players. So for me, being in charge of the second XI was important, as I was having to produce players to replace those that were away playing for England. It worked well, with the guys who stepped up from the second team, all performing.”

Then in 2003, first team coach Keith Medlycott moved on and Alan thought his chance had come to take over the reigns of coaching the first eleven. “I felt I might have a chance to succeed him but the club went for Steve Rixon which was disappointing for me.”

It was disappointing for Alan, given the way he found out, especially having applied for the position. “I was in the Surrey mail room one evening when one of the Surrey media guys came in and started talking about needing to get a press release out. I asked what it was about and he replied it was about Steve Rixon’s appointment. I hadn’t been told. I had been walking about the Oval for a week not knowing someone else had been offered the job and they were awaiting his reply. I was pi$$ed off. The reason I was given was that if they’d told me and he’d not accepted, I’d of known that I would have been second choice. My point was that if I'd have known, at least I could have been adult enough to make a decision with that knowledge, rather than be made to look like an idiot for a week.” Alan remained as coach of the second eleven.

“I enjoyed the role so I carried on. But Steve Rixon and the first team squad didn’t really hit it off and after a couple of seasons he was relieved of his duties and I eventually took over after we got relegated.”

In Alan’s first season as first team coach, Surrey secured promotion back to the top flight. “We got promoted the very next season. To be honest, the team were in a shocking state in terms of discipline. There had been a lot of problems with the coach, Ben Hollioake’s death had, had a big effect and a few cliques were breaking out between the players. It wasn’t a great atmosphere. I felt I worked hard to try and heal that and I believed I did so. Players were talking to each other again and we were walking in the right direction. We played some good cricket and won the division two title.”

Sadly things got tougher for Alan after that successful first season. “A lot of the team I inherited were getting older and were creaking by the wayside. Guys like Mark (Butcher), who was captain, kept getting injured. His knee problems meant he missed lot of the following season. Jimmy Ormond got injured, Ian Salisbury got injured, the list went on. A lot of people in the game thought we would win the division one title in that first season. We certainly prepared well, but with so many players injured at the same time, at the start of the season it was never going to happen. We had to bring young players in who weren’t quite ready. Towards the end of the season we brought in Harbajan Singh and he helped us win games. As did Chris Jordan and we ended up with quite a lot of youngsters coming in and doing well. We finished 4th which was credible. I remember we had a fantastic last game against Lancashire who needed to win to win the championship but we clung on and stopped them from doing so. Nothing against Lancashire but I just wanted the pride.”

The third year was even tougher and Alan’s side got relegated back to division 2. “We entered that following season thinking if could get those injured players fit we could have a very good campaign. But Mark broke down again, Jordan got injured and we couldn’t repeat what we did at the end of the previous summer. We went the whole year without a win. But you know what? I couldn’t have asked anymore from the players. Everything we tried didn’t work. We dropped an unbelievable amount of catches. I remember in one game we dropped 11. We got relegated and that was the end of me.”

It was a frustrating end for Alan, especially as he had been tasked with guiding the team through the difficult transitional period. “I did feel it was a little harsh because the committee all season, and the season before, had said it was going to be a period of re-building. Mark had retired, Martin Bicknell had gone, Ian Salisbury had gone, literally everyone from our good side of the late 90s and early 2000s had left or retired. Having been told it would take four or five years by the committee, I was given six months.”

It was a big learning experience for Alan. “One of the things I always found hard was what they call 'managing upwards'. Sometimes my relationships with my bosses were not as good as they could have been. I have to accept blame for some of that but if I’m honest, the reason for that was because I didn’t have the respect for them. I didn’t find it easy to have a good relationship with some of those people.”

I asked Alan if it was easy or difficult to coach or captain his sons – both of Alan’s sons, Mark and Gary played under him at various stages during Alan’s captaincy and coaching career.

His response was that at times it could be difficult but he recalls one father/son moment he was particularly proud of. “There was one time when Mark came to me after being left out of the England side. I stripped down his technique and put it back together again. He went on to score 500 runs against the Aussies in 2001. If you ask anyone who has worked in a father/son relationship, it can be difficult. You try and tell your son something and they never listen. But the fact Mark came to me made it easier. He took on board what I suggested and things worked out well.”

Alan also has fond words for Gary. “Until recently, Gary was the last bowler to take four wickets in four balls. Alfonso Thomas did it again last season.”

Interestingly, when Gary Butcher took those four wickets for Surrey against Derbyshire at the Oval, Alan had his first sighting of a young Kevin Pietersen. “I was at Leamington Spa, when news came through about Gary’s wickets. We were playing Warwickshire 2’s who had KP trialling for them. You could see then his confidence. I remembered how commanding he was at the crease. Our opening bowler tried to rough him up, but KP hit him rows back into the stand. I remember calling my lads together in the dressing room and said that more of them needed that confidence and arrogance. Most of my players would go out to bat almost apologetically, whereas KP would stride out with a ‘look at me’ attitude. So even before he got a contract in county cricket I’d always used him as an example for others.”

Following his spell at Surrey, Alan tried to get back into the game quickly, but the right opportunity didn’t come up. “I’d been out of work for a while when I went for an interview at Lancashire, who were looking for a head coach. But they went for Peter Moores. In truth, I shouldn’t have applied. It was still too soon after getting sacked from Surrey. That experience was too roar. I shouldn’t have applied. I know a job is right for me because I get a mental picture for it inside. When I thought about that Lancashire job, I got nothing. I should have listened to myself. I didn’t do a very good interview, so I wasn’t surprised I didn’t get it. I wasn’t ready for it.”

Instead, Alan spent some time working for the ECB. “I went to Pretoria with a group of youngsters, which included the likes of Hales, Willey and Bairstow. They were a group at the time, who were a tier below the Lions. I was a batting coach and quite a few of that group went on to good things.”

Not long after this stint, Alan received a call out of the blue from former Zimbabwe batsman Dave Houghton.

“I had known Dave for a long time. During my time at Glamorgan we would often go on pre-season tours to Zimbabwe, when he was captain of the Zimbabwe national team. He also coached for a period, the second team at Worcester, so our paths often crossed and we shared similar philosophies on the game. Dave phoned me and said the Zimbabwe job was available and that he thought I’d be perfect for it. I said let me have a chat to my wife and daughters. We felt it’d be a good opportunity. I made my application and I went for an interview.”

This time Alan had an excellent interview and the job was his. His first international assignment.

But, it was going to be an interesting challenge. For a number of years Zimbabwe cricket had gone through a number of well publicised issues. England and other teams had refused to tour the African nation and they had not played Test cricket for many years.

“When I took over they had been playing one day internationals, but there had been no Test cricket. Part of my job spec was to oversee the country's reintroduction to Test match cricket.”

What followed was a project of trying to mould a team out of a dispirited and disillusioned group of players.

“Straight away they were due to go on tour to the West Indies, prior to the 2010 T20 World Cup. I went out there to observe. When I was appointed, Zimbabwe cricket was at the back end of their domestic season, so I went along to some matches and had some one-to-one chats with the tour party.”

I asked Alan about the state of the domestic game in Zimbabwe and if he had a big pool of players to choose from?

“It’s not a great domestic competition in Zimbabwe. If I’m honest, I’ve played for, and I’ve coached, county second teams that were as good as the franchise teams there. That wasn’t to say there wasn’t any talent, it’s just if there are fewer talented players, it takes longer for them to develop and to get them ready for international cricket. The biggest problem was players didn’t get continuous exposure to high quality opponents. I found that when we made some gains, there would then be no cricket for six months, and we were soon back to square one.”

And then there were the off the field challenges. “I found out through various conversations I had that players were not being paid. They weren’t receiving their bonuses. When I first arrived, there was a really good bonus structure in place. I don’t think they expected us to win as many games as we did. It took me two years to get my bonus. It wasn’t as much of an issue for me, but for some of the players not being paid bonuses or match fees was very serious, because of their personal situations. I was still getting my salary paid, so for me it was a minor irritation not getting my bonus and deep down I always thought I would get my money, eventually. But for some of the players it was the difference between feeding their family and paying their rent. It was that serious.”

Alan recalls one occasion, prior to a tour to New Zealand, when one player who was selected had to ask Alan if he could borrow money. “This player hadn’t featured for 18 months and wasn’t expecting to be selected. He came to me and asked to borrow $300 to give to his wife so she could feed herself and the kids while he was away. It’s not cheap in Zimbabwe to live. That player was not selected until three days before the tour, it was shambolic at times.”

Alan had great help during his time in Zimbabwe from his coaching team. “They were very helpful at trying to understand and get information from the black Zimbabwe players, as they spoke the language and it meant I could get information on how they were feeling.”

I asked Alan if there was ever a quota system in place, similar to that employed by South Africa. “There wasn’t officially. There may have been in the past, but there were situations when selection was a definite issue.”

So much so, it led to Alan resigning from his position on the selection committee – he later retracted the resignation. “On my last tour to the West Indies, we had a selection meeting to select the squad. The convenor of selectors had been in post for 18 months and we had, had a running battle for all of that time. I remember he started off picking a team for a Test natch against Pakistan and announced it to the press - before we had even had a selection meeting - and left out our two dead cert players, one a wicket-keeper and one a bowler. When I was handed the team sheet, I screwed it up and threw it on the floor. That was the start of our bad relationship. Anyway, for this West Indies tour we each had to write down what we thought the squad should be. There were three of us on the selection panel. Two of us had exactly the same names. The convenor of selectors came up with a different squad. He wanted to replace three white players, with three black players. The black players were good cricketers, but different cricketers to what we needed on that tour. Our picks included two spinners and a batsman who could bowl left arm spin. My thinking was that in the West Indies, on flat, slow wickets against a team who didn’t play spin well, we should select a squad with as many spin options, who could bat, as possible. These three were replaced with a seaming all-rounder, and two leg spinners who couldn’t bat. So, whichever team we picked we were either a batsman light or a bowler light. We wouldn’t be able to balance the team. We each presented our squad, but we were told the convenor of selectors had the casting vote, despite two out of three of us having the same squads. We were told that’s it, that’s the team that is going and to write these names down on the sheet. We said we disagreed with the squad and explained why. To no avail. I got back home and fired off an email to tell people what had happened and I resigned from the selection panel. I never did receive a reply, so I assume they were happy with the situation. In the end though I withdrew my resignation, on the basis that when we were on tour, I needed to be able to argue to get the best side on the field.”

Zimbabwe lost the series 2-0.

This was just one of the many challenges Alan had to endure. You can read many more in his book.

In the first couple of years, results were mixed. Zimbabwe pulled off some encouraging results in Africa, but struggled in games outside of Africa. “We struggled outside of Africa, but to be fair most international teams around the world, struggle away from home.”

But Alan did take Zimbabwe back into Test cricket. Their first Test match back was a one-off Test against Bangladesh and they got off to a great start, winning the Test by 130 runs and two years later they pulled off excellent drawn series against Bangladesh and Pakistan. In ODI cricket, a memorable home performance against Bangladesh saw the hosts win a five match series 3-2.

“The team were excited to be back playing Test cricket. Confidence from our early Test matches, helped us win that ODI series 3-2. We were actually 3-0 up. Not many had us down to do that. A year later we won a T20 competition that wasn’t in the record books. It was an unofficial tri-nations series, between South Africa, Bangladesh and us. It wasn’t ratified as South Africa had already played their allotted number of ‘official’ T20s that year and weren’t allowed to play more. We beat South Africa twice and Bangladesh. It was the first time Zimbabwe had won a tournament involving more than two sides.”

Despite all of the off the field issues, Alan enjoyed his time in Zimbabwe and has a soft spot for the country in which he lived for three years. “I love Zimbabwe as a country and would go back tomorrow. Its natural beauty will never go away. In the three years that I was there it became a much more vibrant place. Restaurants and new businesses were popping up. There’s plenty of places to eat and bars are always open. It really is a good place, with friendly people. I had no problems at all there. It feels a pretty free society to me if you have enough income to overcome the almost daily frustrations of water and power cuts. But it’s the people in the rural areas who struggle the most, especially after recent droughts. It’s tougher for those people.”

I asked Alan if he thinks England will return to Zimbabwe for international cricket any time soon? “England won’t go until Mugabe goes. But others are touring. Australia have been, India go regularly, so do South Africa, New Zealand, Bangladesh and Pakistan. It’s only really England.”

I know from supporters who have been previously, it’s a tour we all want back on the schedule sooner, rather than later.

I recommend to you all, that Alan’s book is worth the read, for a full account of cricket in Zimbabwe.

And where does Alan see Zimbabwe cricket right now? “I gather the administration hasn’t got much better and they are losing their better players. I hope it improves but it’s hard to see how until their political and economic situation changes. That will determine the future of cricket. If it gets better, cricket will get better. People are definitely passionate about it. White and black Zimbabweans love it - there is a following. But you hear stories of coaching clinics running with 50 kids and one ball. All that said, I’d go back tomorrow!”

And the future for Alan? “If I go back into coaching it has to be a job I really feel I want to do. It has to excite me.”

Apparently the Zimbabwe cricket board have just started advertising for a new head coach, tempting? “It would be a mad decision given what I know about the administration”

The Good Murungu?: A Cricket Tale of the Unexpected can be ordered here.

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