GUY WHITTALL -- BIOGRAPHY
Full Name: Guy James Whittall Born: 5 September 1972, at Chipinga (now Chipinge) Major teams: Zimbabwe (since 1993/94), Matabeleland (since 1993/94). Present club team: Old Miltonians (Bulawayo) Known as: Guy Whittall Batting Style: Right Hand Bat Bowling Style: Right Arm Medium Pace Occupation: Professional Cricketer
Test Debut: First Test v Pakistan, at Karachi, 1993/94 ODI Debut: 15 November 1993, v Sri Lanka, Patna (Hero Cup)
Biography (January 1997)
Guy Whittall is the sort of all-rounder that England would love to have: an aggressive middle-order batsman who can score useful runs, even centuries, at Test level, and a nippy medium-pace change bowler with the knack of taking useful wickets, besides being a very good outfielder with a fine throw. Since making his debut in Pakistan, he has been a regular in the national side.
Guy is one of the many national cricketers to attend Ruzawi School and Falcon College. His early life was spent on the family ranch in the Lowveld (see also the biography for Andrew Whittall), and he attended his schools as a boarder. His parents would often play cricket with Guy and his cousin Andrew, and his grandfather had been a good cricketer at Rugby School, England. Guy remembers that once, after scoring a century in a school match and feeling very pleased with himself, his grandfather bowled him out first ball. Guy said to him, "You won't do that again" -- whereupon he promptly bowled him second ball as well!
At Ruzawi, at the age of 7, he was first introduced to formal cricket, although this was mostly in the form of a tip-and-run game. When in Grade 4 he graduated to inter-school league cricket and scored his first century at an early age, 108 not out in a house match. In Grade 5 he scored a century against St John's, one of the country's strongest junior school teams. He was regularly the captain of his school teams and scored four or five centuries in junior school cricket. He pays tribute to the head of Ruzawi, Mr Bryan Curtis, whom he regards as a great coach who encouraged him a lot, and the man who equipped him well for his cricketing career.
While at Ruzawi, he and his schoolmates would often travel to Harare to watch the national team play against visiting sides, and his particular heroes were the big-hitting all-rounders Peter Rawson and Iain Butchart. In Grade 6 he was selected for the Partridges national primary school team, and in Grade 7 he captained the Marondera area team at the Cricket Week, when he scored a century and a fifty and took a few wickets, and still today cannot understand why he failed to make the national side that year as well, although he is philosophical about it.
Moving on to Falcon College, he was appointed captain of his age-group team at the end of his first year, and he kept the captaincy for the rest of his school career. With so many other future Zimbabwean players around, Falcon naturally won most of their matches, and Guy scored about six or seven centuries during his time there. It was a disappointment, though, that his father did not often get to see him play, as the ranch is so far from the school and he was usually unable to get away for long enough. Guy's academic career did not keep up with his sport, though, as he admits he was quite lazy at school, and rugby and hockey took over in the winter; he also represented Falcon at both these sports.
At Under-15 level he scored two centuries during the inter-provincial cricket week and was appointed vice-captain of the Fawns, the national under-15 team. At the age of 16 he was selected for the national schools side and toured New Zealand in 1989 and England in 1990, when they were unbeaten, with Dave Houghton as coach and Peter Whalley as manager. He scored a century in the Logan Cup (in its pre-first-class days) for Zimbabwe Schools against the Harare Central team. He was also selected for the national schools rugby team as centre during his final two years at school, and he pays tribute to Lionel Reynolds of Falcon College as an outstanding rugby coach.
Guy scored more centuries at school than most other top players; part of this was due to the fact that at Ruzawi and Falcon he had greater opportunity to play all-day matches, and he also attributes this to his father's advice. At one stage Guy was frequently getting dismissed in the twenties or thirties, and his father would frequently tell him he must cut out that habit and concentrate for longer and higher innings. Even today Guy realises there is a tendency for his concentration to lapse at this stage, and he has to be prepared to play through it and keep his eye on big scores; even during his Test century against Pakistan, he offered a chance at this point, which was dropped. "If you look at my Test record, you'll see I get out a lot around there," he admits. "Even in my club games. That's a most annoying time to get out, because you're just getting set, you've done the hard work. To get out for 0 or 5 or whatever, that's not so bad, but if you keep getting out in the twenties, thirties or forties, that's no good at all."
After leaving school, Guy put his mind to cricket, and did two years of professional coaching, employed by the Zimbabwe Cricket Union, at Petra Primary School and Milton High School in Bulawayo. He then found a job as a sales rep in the city, and also worked as a hunter on Denis Streak's ranch. He was still playing rugby, and went as a centre to the World Cup qualifying tournament in Kenya.
He made his first-class debut at the age of 18, and played for the national side against Worcestershire as an opening batsman. But, before the Logan Cup was upgraded to first-class status, he got little first-class cricket. He played some useeful innings against the Kent touring team, just before their 1993 season, and was selected for the Zimbabwean team to tour England that yeear. He did not do much in the first-class matches, and many considered him lucky to be selected for the tour to Pakistan.
Until then, Guy had been considered purely as a batsman in first-class cricket, although he enjoyed bowling and insisted to his team-mates that he could do the job. He loved bowling and was always willing to have a go in the nets, and John Hampshire, the coach, seeing his away-swingers, suggested to captain Andy Flower that he might prove useful. He will always remember his first Test wicket, having Basit Ali caught down the leg side flicking off his legs. Since then Guy has been a regular bowler for every team he has played in, although he did lose some of his nip for a while during the 1995/96 season.
When Pakistan came to Zimbabwe, Guy played a major part in Zimbabwe's first Test victory. The ball was moving around a lot off the pitch and, when the Flower brothers came together at 42 for three, Guy was on tenterhooks, ready to go in next at any moment. The hardest part, he says, was the waiting, as Andy and Grant batted through the rest of the day as they wore down the Pakistani attack. He found it quite nerve-racking sitting there, having to concentrate on every ball, and finding himself still sitting there with his pads on at the close of play. At one stage, he arranged for Stuart Carlisle to go in before him should a wicket have fallen before the close.
When he finally went in on the dismissal of Andy next morning, he wanted to ram home the advantage and scored quite quickly at first. With the help of a couple of dropped catches, he was soon setting his sights on a big score. After the second, dropped at third man as he tried to cut, he felt in control of his game. He aimed to keep the board ticking over and to support Grant Flower, who was moving towards his double-century. He was stuck on 98 for a while, when he was dropped in the slips; he remembers seeing the ball go all the way from the bat to Aamer Sohail in the slips, and then going down. But then, about two balls later, he enjoyed the relief of pulling a ball through midwicket for the runs he needed. Then, when Zimbabwe were in the field, he had the pleasure of coming on early in the second innings to dismiss Saeed Anwar lbw.
Guy also loves hunting, and from the age of about 13 or 14 he used to return to the ranch and spend most of his time doing just that. He has told his father that he is considering the possibility of being a professional cricketer for perhaps another four or five years and then returning to the ranch and to his life as a professional hunter. During the 1996 season he played for Rawtenstall in the Lancashire League and so has been playing non-stop for eighteen months, but he looks forward to going back to the farm; he does not plan to play in England again during 1997. He tends to find himself just getting into the swing of hunting again when it is time to start training all over again for the next cricket season. Still, he feels he is really getting the best of both worlds, although with so much travelling involved in cricket he finds it difficult to feel settled.
Now that he has taken up a professional post with the Zimbabwe Cricket Union, which started last September, Guy is enjoying financial security during the cricket season. In the past, he had to rely on the money he made from hunting during the winter to see him through. Living so far from Harare and Bulawayo, he could not commute from there during the season, and had to find lodgings. Since most of the Zimbabwean team are based in Harare, he spends quite a bit of time there, staying with relatives, but wants to remain loyal to Matabeleland and keep playing for them. He recognises the danger of a reduction of standards in Bulawayo should more top players leave for the greater opportunities of Harare, as has happened in Manicaland and the Midlands since independence. Guy pays tribute to the two national coaches during his time in the Zimbabwe team: John Hampshire, he says, was a tough man but only because he wanted him to be better; he taught Guy a lot and built his confidence, while Dave Houghton has been `absolutely brilliant', constantly introducing new ideas and techniques, and a wide variety of activities.
Dave Houghton says, "Guy has been a good all-rounder for us in Test cricket, although he's had a lean patch in the last two series. He's come good in the Logan Cup, though. His bowling has always had a little bit of bite in it, and he often comes in just at the right time and breaks a partnership for us."
Andy Flower says, "Guy has performed really well for us since he first came into the side. He came in to bat Number 6 or 7 and bowl a bit; at that stage he hardly bowled at all, but he has actually turned into a reasonable fourth seamer. He is always nipping in with useful wickets and he scored a really good Test century in the match we won against Pakistan. He has been the all-rounder we have played at Number 7."