March 15, 2003

Biography: Gary Brent

FULL NAME: Gary Bazil Brent
BORN: 13 January 1976, at Sinoia (now Chinhoyi)
MAJOR TEAMS: Mashonaland Under-24/Young Mashonaland (1994/95-1995/96);
Mashonaland (1996/97-1998/99), Manicaland (1999/2000 to date).
Present club teams: Old Hararians, Mutare Sports Club.
KNOWN AS: Gary Brent. Nickname: GB.
BOWLING STYLE: Right Arm Fast Medium Bowler
OCCUPATION: Professional cricketer

FIRST-CLASS DEBUT: Mashonaland Under-24 v Mashonaland Country Districts, (Harare South), 16 September 1994
TEST DEBUT: 18-22 November 1999, Zimbabwe v Sri Lanka (Queens Sports Club).
ODI DEBUT: 30 October 1996, Zimbabwe v Pakistan (Quetta).

BIOGRAPHY (updated March 2003)

Gary Brent is a medium-pace bowler, and also a useful batsman, who has been on the fringe of the Zimbabwean national side for several years now without being able to break through and earn a permanent place in the team.

Gary comes from a strong cricketing background, and his uncle Jon Brent was an all-rounder, like himself, who represented Zimbabwe between 1988 and 1990. His earliest memories of cricket are of his father bowling to him on the lawn at home when he was very young.

Although Gary is now primarily a bowler who can bat, his bowling was a later development in his career. Although born in Chinhoyi, his family soon moved near Harare and he attended Highlands Primary School there. He won his place in the large school's Colts team, which consisted mainly of Grade 5 players, while still in Grade 3, as a batsman and later also as wicket-keeper. This was a role he was to fulfill until late in his high-school career.

He scored his first fifty for the school first team while in Grade 7 and was sent for trials for the national primary school tournament, but did not make the final side. He progressed to Eaglesvale High School, where he was in the same year as the Matambanadzo twins, Darlington and Everton. At first he continued to keep wicket and either opened the batting or went in at number three. It was here that he was coached by Barry Lake, whom he names as the main influence in his cricketing career.

It was Mr Lake who encouraged Gary to develop his bowling. Gary soon became a useful seam bowler, aiming to hit the seam and with the inswinger as his stock delivery. In his final year he hit 108 against the English school Dean Close at the Prince Edward Cricket Festival, in a partnership of over 300 with Doug Marillier, who scored a double-century. He was selected for the national schools team as an all-rounder.

During this year he also played club cricket for the first time, joining Old Hararians who offered free membership to players from schools such as Eaglesvale. He had further encouragement from some of the leading players, and pays tribute especially to Paul and Bryan Strang who gave him a great deal of help, especially on the mental side of the game, and also Dirk Viljoen for his advice with his batting.

After leaving school he started work for his father on the family farm in Norton, which earned him a qualification for Mashonaland Country Districts. During the off season he travelled to England to play for the club at Burridge, where he found the play of quite a good standard, better than Zimbabwean second-league standard he thinks.

After some useful performances at club level, mainly as a bowler, he made his first-class debut in the Logan Cup for Mashonaland Under-24 against Mashonaland Country Districts. Although he took only one wicket, he did play an innings of 40 against an attack containing Test players Gary Crocker, Steve Peall and Paul Strang, which was to remain his highest first-class score for five years. In his team's next match, against Mashonaland, he took the wickets of Test players Craig Evans (twice), Andy Flower and Gavin Briant.

Gary also had some good performances to his credit for the Zimbabwe Board XI in matches not ranked as first-class against South African teams, most notably eight wickets against Free State B. It was largely as a result of these performances that he was chosen to tour Pakistan with the national side in 1996/97, a surprise choice even though Zimbabwe's pace-bowling reserves were very thin at that time.

It was a memorable tour for Gary, even though most of his time was spent doing twelfth-man duties. He was particularly struck by the dryness of the country and the poverty of so many of the people there, and also felt very much in awe of the great crowds that filled the stadiums and the noise they created. A great deal of time was also spent driving from place to place in not the most comfortable of conditions. He did play in one international match, making his one-day debut at Quetta, where he scored just one run and bowled five rather innocuous overs. He was clearly not international material yet, and was overlooked for more than a year after this by the national selectors.

His career took an important step forward when he was selected to attend the MRF Pace Foundation coaching course with Dennis Lillee at Madras just before he returned to international cricket in April 1998. He worked hard at his action, especially in putting his feet down in the right places, and feels the coaching was of great benefit, an experience he would be eager to repeat given the opportunity. He feels Lillee's advice on playing in big matches also made a positive impression on him: "Stop, look, and take in the atmosphere."

Gary's second one-day international was no more successful than his first with the ball; playing against India in Cuttack, he again bowled only five rather expensive overs without success, but he did score a useful 24 with the bat, hanging on while Grant Flower reached his century at the other end as Zimbabwe made a late but unsuccessful bid for victory.

The following season he attended the Commonwealth Games, playing in two matches against Malaysia and Sri Lanka, taking one and two wickets respectively in the unofficial internationals. He again played in just one official one-day international during the season, another unsuccessful match against India, but at least he had the satisfaction of a wicket this time, dismissing Rahul Dravid.

Shortly after this he was given a place in the first intake of the Zimbabwe Cricket Academy, a position he had been aiming for as he hopes to become a fully-fledged professional cricketer. He had his first taste of captaincy at first-class level when, in the absence of Dirk Viljoen, he led the academy against the visiting Australian Cricket Academy team, which was to be a rather torrid experience, as the tourists had in their ranks Brett Lee, a bowler of express pace who literally frightened some of the local Academy players. Gary himself showed his unselfishness in the second innings by promoting himself in the batting order, when on a `pair', to face the fury of Lee when he could have waited until the bowler was rested. He weathered the storm and made a valiant 37, but the team was heavily defeated.

He also played in the one-day series for Zimbabwe A against the touring England A team, and impressed with some attacking accurate bowling. He had recently shortened his run-up and found it made a considerable difference to his bowling; this, he thought, was perhaps the best spell of bowling he had ever done. In his ten overs he took two wickets for 21 runs, by some way the best bowling return for his team.

The 1999/2000 season was a major one for Gary, as to the surprise of many he played in two Test matches, with fair results, and played regularly for the national one-day team. He played a couple of one-day matches against Australia with no great success, and he himself was rather surprised to be selected to make his Test debut against Sri Lanka in the First Test at Queens Sports Club in Bulawayo.

This came on the back of his best career bowling figures, six for 84 while playing for the Academy against the Sri Lankans at Kwekwe. That Test was badly affected by rain, but Gary was by far the most economical of the Zimbabwean bowlers, taking two wickets (Jayawardene and de Saram) for 55 runs in 32 overs. Against that, he was out first ball with the bat.

He kept his place for the Second Test at Harare, where he was less successful with the ball, until the second innings, when Sri Lanka needed just 35 to win. Gary gave them a shock by taking three quick wickets, but still lost his place for the final Test, when Eddo Brandes returned to the team.

Gary went on to have a most successful Logan Cup season. After completing his year at the Academy, he was posted to Manicaland, where he became the backbone of their attack in their most successful first year in the competition. He took 15 wickets in his first two matches for them, although he trailed off after that, and they missed him badly in the final which they lost the Mashonaland, as he was touring with the national side in the West Indies.

Gary played in 17 one-day internationals during the season, taking 24 wickets at an average of 30, although conceding five runs an over. Eight of the wickets were in consecutive matches against Sri Lanka, so that remains his favourite series.

He played in the triangular tournament in South Africa, against England at home, toured West Indies and finally was included in the World Cup squad for England in 1999. He played in only one World Cup match, though, the final one at The Oval against Pakistan, when he was as unsuccessful as the best of the team.

Then it was back to domestic cricket for 2000/01, as he was not even selected for the Zimbabwe Board XI. He had another good season for Manicaland, taking 23 wickets in their four matches, but he did not even get a single game in the national one-day side.

Then suddenly, the following season, he found he was in favour again. Regaining his one-day place, he was Zimbabwe's most accurate and economical bowler against the South Africans, and continued to bowl steadily against England in the home one-day series. Sharjah followed, with seven wickets in four matches.

The came the tour to Bangladesh, where Gary was given another chance at Test cricket, in the Second Test at Chittagong. He was disappointed to take only one wicket for 88 runs against weak opposition, but he took five wickets in two one-day internationals, which helped to keep him in the side for Sri Lanka.

More disappointments were to follow, as he played one unsuccessful one-day match there and another disappointing Test match. He was given what was to be a final chance on the tour to India, but took just two expensive wickets in three one-day internationals.

Since then Gary has been out in the cold as far as international cricket is concerned. He returned to live in Harare, although still playing for Manicaland and Mutare Sports Club in the national league, while rejoining Old Hararians for the Vigne Cup competition. He took 10 wickets at 14.20 each in his two Logan Cup matches in 2001/02, but his 2002/03 season did not go well. He cannot put his finger on the problem, but he tended to be more expensive in domestic cricket and so failed to challenge for a place in the World Cup squad.

Gary's batting steadily improved, and he has learned to be a better starter and contribute more consistently without producing any really high scores. He plays straight and scores the bulk of his runs from drives, while he is also able to play safe and keep an end up if that is in the interests of the team. He scored his first fifties for Old Hararians and also for the Zimbabwe Board XI in 1998/99. He felt particularly pleased with an innings of about 60 on a dodgy pitch in a Vigne Cup match, while his best first-class innings has been 72 not out when strengthening a CFX Academy XI against the Indian tourists of 2000/01.

A modest man who perhaps still needs to work on the confidence factor, Gary's international future is uncertain, but he could still return with plenty of hard work and mental strength. The next season or two should determine the future of his career as he seeks a return to the national side.