June 2, 2001

Guy Whittall: Team man back in form

Zimbabwe vice-captain and all-rounder Guy Whittall is happy to be back in batting form after the selectors kept faith in him despite a disappointing performance in the last three overseas tours of India, New Zealand and Australia.

"I wasn't quite going on to make big scores," he says. "I was getting twenties and thirties and not making any big scores and I was putting a lot of guys under a lot of pressure. This was obviously not good for the team."

In the two-match Test series in India, Whittall averaged 31 with a best score of 84 in the first innings of the second Test. The other scores were 0, 29 and 11. In the one-off Boxing Day Test in New Zealand, Whittall averaged just 7.50.

"Although I had not made any big scores of 50 in quite a few games, I still believed that I would play against Bangladesh because I believed that the selectors and management would have confidence in me at Test level. But I would not have been totally surprised if I wasn't selected. I thought that Gavin Rennie who had batted well in New Zealand would be preferred ahead of me."

Rennie averaged 65 in the New Zealand Test after making Zimbabwe's highest individual score of 93.

"The selectors however had faith in me, obviously because of my past record at home, and I managed to come through for the team and for the team, which was the turning point for the season for myself. Against India I might still be in the opening position and this is going to be more of a test for me against a better side.

"They have Harbhajan Singh in the attack and he has proven himself. They also have Srinath who I think is one of the best bowlers in the world. He gets a lot of lift and bounce so he, I should think, will be spearheading the Indian attack. They also have got a couple of youngsters who have a bit of pace and are fighting for position.

"I will, once again, not be bowling because of injury. It will be another six more weeks and we'll review the situation after that.

"India have a very strong batting line up with Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid. They also have Laxman who we actually saw in a warm-up match the last time we were in India around 1996 and we thought he was a real classy act. He is now among the best in the world.

"But obviously when you are playing at home and you have the home support, you sort of know more about yourself and about the actual game on your own turf.

"We beat India here the last time but unfortunately I was not involved because of injury. Hopefully this time we can get a good combination of our batsmen and bowlers so that everyone can bowl and bat according to the team plan.

"India have failed to produce the same sort of standard of cricket that they have away from home but they have got a new coach now in John Wright from New Zealand. I think on the actual fitness side and on fielding skills and duels, India will now be able to compete with any side in the world.

"They are a lot tighter and a lot better in the field. They are actually throwing themselves around on the field. They never used to do that a couple of years back. They are here after a fantastic win over Australia, which I am sure they are very proud of and the rest of the world was quite happy to see.

"But that should not make us afraid of them as they chase their first overseas Test series win since 1986. When you play sport you can't have this fear of being the first to go down. Your main aim is to suit your own game and do what you think is the best for the team.

"In the last two years we have come a long way. I believe we have got some good batsmen playing at the moment and we are in good form. We just need to learn to take 20 wickets in a game."