PAUL STRANG: BIOGRAPHY
Full Name: Paul Andrew Strang
Born: 28 July 1970, Bulawayo
Major teams: Zimbabwe (since 1994/95), Mashonaland Country Districts (1993/94-1995/96), Mashonaland (1996/97- ).
Present club team: Old Hararians
Known as: Paul Strang
Batting Style: Right Hand Bat
Bowling Style: Leg Breaks and Googlies
Occupation: Professional Cricketer
Test Debut: Third Test v Sri Lanka, 1993/94, at Harare Sports Club
ODI Debut: 2 December 1994, v Australia, at Perth
Biography (November 1996)
Paul Strang is one of Zimbabwe's most promising cricketers. He was born in Bulawayo in 1970, the elder son of Ron Strang, now a first-class umpire. Although Ron did not play cricket at a high level himself, Paul pays tribute to the support and encouragement he received from both his parents. They encouraged Paul and his younger brother Bryan from the start, playing with them in the back yard, sending them on coaching courses during the school holidays, and travelling to watch them play.
Ron was then in the police force, which meant regular moves around the country during Paul's schooldays. He attended junior schools at Hartley (now Chegutu), Wankie (now Hwange), and finally at Cecil John Rhodes in Gwelo (now Gweru). It was at CJR, as it is commonly known, that he first learnt to bowl leg-spin. He tagged along on a coaching course with his father and saw the art demonstrated by former South African Test cricketer Peter Carlstein, who played several seasons of Currie Cup cricket for Rhodesia and was the national junior schools coach at the time of Independence in 1980. Paul experimented and practised his leg-spinners in the school nets and was soon quite adept at it. In his final year at junior school, he reaped a rich harvest of wickets, with the assistance of a couple of good wicketkeepers. He was selected that year for the Midlands Under-13 team, but was not chosen for the Partridges team (the national primary schools cricket team).
At high school, he attended Falcon College, near Esigodeni, as a boarder. The fast, lively pitch there is ideal for young cricketers, and especially encouraging for leg-spinners. The school is sports-oriented and has produced several other Zimbabwean Test players. At first he batted Number Three in his age-group team, and in one match scored about 150, but was promoted to the school first team at the age of 15 or 16. This did set back his batting temporarily, as he was thought of primarily as a bowler and sent in to bat in the tail. He appreciates the experience gained in the Logan Cup competition, where it is possible for all-rounders like himself to bat high in the order and have the opportunity to play long innings. At Falcon the cricketers were encouraged to spend their spare time at the nets, and Paul put in many hours of hard work. At that time he bowled very slow, high-flighted leg-breaks, but was forced to speed up somewhat when he started playing league cricket and found adult batsman coming down the pitch more readily to attack him.
His family was now living in Bindura, and during the school holidays he commuted into Harare to play for the Old Hararians Under-16 team. They then moved on to Mutare, and Paul began his club career for the Manicaland team. Ten years ago, Manicaland was a stronger cricketing province than it is today, and there were several national players in the team. Paul pays particular tribute to the captain, Terry Coughlan, another leg-spinner. Coughlan took a personal interest in him and gave him much advice; Paul found him a very disciplined, strong-minded man who had worked out his own game and knew how to play within his own limitations. Other senior players to encourage him were Jon Brent, Kevin Walton, Kenyon Ziehl and, during a brief stay there, Eddo Brandes.
In his first league match for Manicaland, Paul had the thrill of taking five wickets against the Bulawayo Sables team. During the winter he played for Makoni (the Rusape area) in the Mashonaland Country Districts league. Finally, realising that his progress would be quicker, he moved to Harare and played for Old Hararians, the traditional Harare club of his family. He worked for Border Timbers in Harare after leaving university; they were very good to him and gave him all the leave he needed to tour, until he resigned at the end of 1995 to play more full-time cricket, including a season in the Birmingham League. Then, in 1996, he accepted an invitation from the Zimbabwe Cricket Union to become a full-time professional.
He was perhaps a little late coming to prominence in Zimbabwean cricket due to the years he spent at the University of Cape Town, where he came under the influence of Duncan Fletcher, former Zimbabwean captain and the University (now Western Province) coach. Since South Africa was still then in international disfavour, he could play at no higher level than university, at the risk of being included on the United Nations blacklist and banned from playing in Zimbabwe.
His representative career actually began when he was still at school, as he played in a one-day match for Mashonaland Country Districts against Bert Vance's New Zealand Young Internationals team. He scored 11 not out and took the wicket of opening batsman Trevor Franklin for 58 runs in 10 overs, out of a New Zealand score of 294 for three; Districts lost by 101 runs.
Paul's greatest qualities are his fighting spirit and his unselfish approach. He finds it difficult to remember details of his best performances, and the outstanding achievements lose most of their gloss if his team does not win the match. His century against Pakistan was his first in first-class cricket, but he cannot remember many details of his hundreds in minor cricket. His highest score in any match was an innings of about 150 for an Under-14 team at Falcon College; in adult cricket, he recorded a couple of league centuries while playing for Manicaland. On several occasions he has taken seven wicket in an innings in minor cricket, but not more -- yet.
Paul is one of the best fielders in an outstanding fielding side, often seen in the covers or backward point area. He is at his best as a batsman when the pressure is on and runs are needed urgently, as he proved while scoring his Test century. As a bowler he has a wide repertoire -- regular leg-breaks, googly, top-spinner and flipper -- and his control has improved considerably during the last couple of seasons.
His match double of a century and five wickets in a Test innings is a major career highlight so far, and he took great pleasure in his 87-run partnership with his brother Bryan. There is no rivalry or jealousy between the brothers, who support and encourage each other to the hilt.
One law of the game that Paul would like to see changed is the lbw law, as no doubt would all bowlers who turn the ball appreciably from leg. Paul frequently loses wickets through sharply-spun deliveries which hit the pad, would have hit the wicket, but pitch marginally outside leg stump. There is certainly a case for permitting this, as long as the bowler is delivering the ball from over the wicket.
Alistair Campbell says, "He came on our first tour of Pakistan, but we couldn't even play him because he couldn't land three balls in the right area in an over! From that, he has become a world-class leg-spin bowler; in fact, probably a world-class all-rounder. He's batted well for us countless times under pressure, and I think he's going to go much further. He has the right attitude for cricket, a great cricketing brain, and a lot of patience; he's one of those guys who is always helping out youngsters and always keen in the field -- a great fielder at backward point."
Dave Houghton says, "He must be about the fourth-best `leggie' in the world now; to have him playing for us is fantastic."
Andy Flower says, "He has done really well in all the international competitions we have played in, but unfortunately the pitches we have here don't always turn much, and I'm not sure he will be such a threat to the Englishmen. But obviously I hope he does brilliantly!"