BRYAN STRANG -- BIOGRAPHY
Full Name: Bryan Colin Strang
Born: 9 June 1972, Bulawayo
Major teams: Zimbabwe (since 1994/95), Mashonaland Country Districts (1994/95-1995/96), Mashonaland (1996/97- ). Present club team: Old Hararians (Harare).
Known as: Bryan Strang
Batting Style: Right Hand Bat
Bowling Style: Left Arm Medium Fast Medium
Occupation: Professional Cricketer
Test Debut: Second Test v Pakistan, at Queens Sports Club, Bulawayo, 1994/95
ODI Debut: 22 February 1995, v Pakistan, Harare Sports Club
Biography (December 1996)
Bryan Strang is something of a self-taught cricketer. Although others have had an impact on his cricketing development at different times, in the end it is Bryan himself who has done his home-work and made himself into the effective international cricketer he is today.
Like so many others, his first significant influence was his father. Ron Strang, now a first-class umpire, used to encourage and play with Bryan and his older brother Paul in their back garden. Bryan was also fortunate in going to the Rhodes Estate Preparatory School (known as Reps), near Bulawayo and one of the strongest cricketing junior schools in the country. He remembers few details of those early years, except that he played as an all-rounder and bowled left-arm spin. He was good enough, in his final year, to be selected for the Matabeleland Under-13 team and went to the trials in Harare for the Partridges, the national primary schools team.
He attended Falcon College during his high-school years, and found the same encourage-ment and opportunity for practice there that so many other top Zimbabwe cricketers of the present day have. He was selected for the Fawns, the national Under-15 team, and it was at about this time that he switched to bowling pace. Perhaps he did not have the patience to be a spinner and became frustrated at having good deliveries hit around in rustic style but, in his own words, he decided that "if I'm going to get hit out of the park I might as well send it down a bit faster!" Without any real coaching in pace bowling, he found he could swing the ball naturally and turned himself at that stage into a quality medium-pacer. He has never been able to bowl fast enough to trouble good batsmen, but his combination of accuracy, swing, hitting the seam, and lift and movement off the pitch have made him into a top-class performer. He is frequently under-estimated due to his lack of real pace, but his record speaks for itself.
He was still playing as an all-rounder, batting at Five or Six, and actually scored a century at Under-15 level in a school match against Peterhouse, which is near Marondera. However, his batting did not keep pace with the higher standard of bowling he was to face on his way up the ladder. Still, it has never been negligible, although he has at present no pretensions to being anything more than a useful tail-end slogger, with a first-class fifty to his credit and a few valuable contributions when runs have been vital.
In his final year at Falcon, he was selected for Zimbabwe Schools, and also played for Manicaland in the Logan Cup, in its pre-first-class days, although he can remember few details of his personal performances. For a while, though, he was to be lost to Zimbabwe cricket except for net practices and the occasional league match, as he was accepted at the University of Cape Town to study for a Bachelor of Arts degree. This was in 1991, when South Africa was still ostracised. He enjoyed the university cricket, although not finding a first-team place immediately; however, he was selected for the team that played in the South African Universities Week at the end of his first year, and was a regular from then on. The university coach then was the former Zimbabwean captain Duncan Fletcher, who gave him considerable help and encouragement.
On his return from university, he worked for a while as a sales rep, selling plastic for S K Petroleum. Interestingly, he also had a pilot's licence, obtained before he left for university when working for Guy Whittall's father on their family ranch. His cricket career at first-class level had already started, though, as he had impressed in net practices when on vacation from university, and the enterprising selectors had him high on their list.
His first match was a surprisingly high-ranking one: without having played any first-class provincial cricket, he found himself selected for the Zimbabwe A team to face South Africa A in a representative match at Alexandra Sports Club in Harare. Still at university, he had to fly home especially for the match, which was a disaster for his team but a success for himself; he was the one Zimbabwean player who could justly claim to have enjoyed a good match, as he took five wickets, including those of such fine batsmen as Mark Rushmere, Dave Callaghan and Louis Wilkinson. From then on, he enjoyed what was virtually a dream season. He was selected for the Zimbabwe Board XI to play in the UCB Bowl competition against South African minor provinces and B sides, and took 19 wickets, more than any other bowler in the team. He played one useful Logan Cup match and was then pitchforked into the Test team, becoming one of a select band of players from any country to play Test cricket during the season of their first-class debut. It was quite a vote of confidence for a bowler with so little experience at the top level, but the selectors had got it right.
He was selected for the Second Test in Bulawayo, replacing the injured Henry Olonga, but he would actually have played in the First, that glorious victory over Pakistan, had he not been unavailable writing exams. He took nine wickets in the two Tests against Pakistan and has never looked back. He finished the season with 51 wickets, a remarkable figure for any bowler in his debut season outside England, averaging just over 20. His bowling developed and his pace increased noticeably as the season progressed.
The following season, 1995/96, was a busy one for Bryan -- and successful, too. At home he bowled with the same success, including a five-wicket haul in the one-off Test against South Africa; abroad he visited South Africa with Zimbabwe A (not unduly successful), New Zealand, and the Indian subcontinent for the World Cup. The highlight for him was not an international match but rather the first-class friendly against a New Zealand XI in Wanganui, where he took 12 wickets in the match for the remarkable cost of only 59 runs.
He also attended a coaching course for fast bowlers in Madras, run by Dennis Lillee, but it was a surprise to hear that the Australian maestro did not rate him as highly as the other bowlers who attended. Bryan explains that, after a few days, Lillee asked him if this was the fastest he could bowl. When he replied that it was, Lillee tended to lose some interest in him, although still giving advice. He clearly felt Bryan did not rate as a fast bowler -- which is true. But he can certainly never be written off as a medium-pacer of genuine skill -- most of it self-taught.
Bryan, who signed on as a professional cricketer with the Zimbabwe Cricket Union in August, enjoys other sports as well as cricket. At school and university he played rugby, hockey, tennis and squash, and still plays the last two. His interests include reading, watching movies and sport in general.
Andy Flower says, "I think Bryan has bowled really well for Zimbabwe and has a good record so far. I do think he lacks a little in pace but he does a really good job; he keeps things reasonably tight; he can swing the ball both ways and also hits the seam, but because it's not at a great pace he suffers a little on pitches that don't offer much assistance to bowlers."