Murray Goodwin - a short biography

John Ward

September 20, 1999

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FULL NAME: Murray William Goodwin

BORN: 11 December 1972, in Harare

MAJOR TEAMS: Western Australia (1994/95-1996/97); Mashonaland A (1997/98).

Present club side: Alexandra

KNOWN AS: Murray Goodwin. Nicknames: 'Snapper', 'Goody', 'Muzz the Fuzz'

BATTING STYLE: Right Hand Bat

BOWLING STYLE: Right Arm Leg Spin or Medium Pace

OCCUPATION: Professional cricketer

FIRST-CLASS DEBUT: Western Australia v England XI, at Perth, 29 October 1994.

TEST DEBUT: Zimbabwe v Sri Lanka, at Kandy, 7-11 January 1998

ODI DEBUT: Zimbabwe v Sri Lanka, at Colombo, 22 January 1998

Biography (updated September 1999)

For many years, cricket in Zimbabwe was severely handicapped by the exodus of top players to seek their fortunes elsewhere -- Graeme Hick, Kevin Curran, Peter Rawson and Trevor Penney being the most prominent names to be mentioned in this regard. But, once Zimbabwe were granted Test status and began to settle into regular international cricket, some of the exiles began to return home. First of these, in 1997, was leg-spinner Adam Huckle, returning from South Africa. He was soon followed by Murray Goodwin from Western Australia.

Murray is the third of the four sons of George Goodwin, a journalist and keen sportsman. The family lived in Zimbabwe until 1986, when George emigrated to Australia with his wife and two younger boys. The older sons, Murray's half-brothers Darrell and Brian, remained in Zimbabwe and Darrell represented the country for several years before the granting of Test status, until business began to take priority in his life.

Murray's first cricketing memories are of playing in his back yard at home with his parents and elder brothers. It was inevitable, he thinks, with a family so committed to the game, that his life was going to revolve around cricket. At the age of seven he became a leading member of his Colts team, comprising boys up to three years older than himself, at Groombridge Primary School, and was also highly involved in the Eagles holiday cricket programme in Harare, run by his father and John Ward. He has fond memories of his successes with both bat and ball at this level.

By the age of nine he had progressed to the school's senior team, and before long had several centuries to his credit, at school and in the Eagles programme. He then moved to St John's Preparatory School in Harare, and remembers particularly scoring 143 against Highlands, which earned him his school colours. He progressed to St John's College, a comparatively new school, and became the first batsman to score a century for a school team there. He was presented with the match ball immediately before his emigration to Australia. A major highlight at that time was his inclusion in the Zimbabwe junior Fawns squad. He considers he was most fortunate to attend two good schools in Zimbabwe and play a lot of schools cricket, which he was to miss in Australia. He also remembers enjoying watching the national team in action, players who have all retired now.

He was also a successful bowler in those days, taking many wickets with medium-paced swingers, which he still bowls at times at club level if tight bowling is required. He is economical but does not usually take many wickets these days. His more regular style, if there are runs to play with, is flighted leg-spin, which he also employed at junior school level, but lack of accuracy tended to make him expensive. He still tends to be erratic, and admits he needs to practise them more. On his first-class debut in Zimbabwe, for Mashonaland A against Matabeleland, he bowled his medium-pacers; in the second innings the Matabeleland batsmen Guy Whittall and Heath Streak were getting on top of the attack when he was brought on to try to tie up an end. He set 'a reasonably defensive field', and Guy Whittall quickly gave a catch trying to hit over the top. He also dismissed John Rennie, and Matabeleland were forced to play for a draw.

In 1986, Murray, aged 13, emigrated to Australia with his parents. Unlike Zimbabwe, there is not much cricket played there among government schools, one of which he attended in Perth. Club cricket is much more prominent for teenagers, and Murray soon became involved with Bayswater-Morley. George's company soon went bankrupt, but he found another job at a newspaper in Bunbury, a country town about two hundred kilometres down the coast. Murray started his schooling career there and played Under-14 cricket. He was still receiving coaching from his father, and was now also coached by the former England player Jack Birkenshaw, now coach of his former county Leicestershire. He had much to do with Murray's progress through his teenage years, as he attended squad practices at the town club.

Before his fifteenth birthday, he was representing the Western Australia Country Under-16 team, playing against the team from Perth, but without success. He felt rather despondent about his failure, but returned to Bunbury to play A Grade cricket at the age of 16, scoring a century there at that age. This cricket took place in the form of carnivals, or tournaments, against other country teams, and occasionally sides from Perth. At the age of 16, such a tournament was held in Bunbury, and the home side played in the final against a select Perth team. Murray captained that team, which won the match and therefore the competition.

As a result, he was selected in the squad of 25 for the Western Australia Under-17 team, along with two of his team-mates. But he was the only one from any of the country teams to make the final eleven to travel to Adelaide for the national Under-17 championships. He was disappointed to score only 6 runs in the only two innings he played there -- two matches were rained off. He returned to Bunbury, however, to score 143 in his next match, batting at number three, against the top team in the A grade competition. Among the opposition were several grown men who had represented the adult Western Australia Country side, and this innings rebuilt his hope and confidence in his ability.

At this stage, his batting was starting to take precedence over his bowling. He had received advice from older players to the effect that he should seek to concentrate on one department of the game if he wanted to progress in the game. He enjoyed batting more than bowling, and had always enjoyed more success at batting except in his very early days, so this was the path he chose, although he did not jettison his bowling entirely.

At the age of 17 he had his first taste of senior cricket in Perth, playing for the Under-21 country team against the Perth Under-21 team, and actually topped the batting averages. He was recruited by the Subiaco-Floreat team, whose past greats include players like Kim Hughes and Terry Alderman. He was thrilled at the thought of playing in the same team as they. He began playing in the second team, and in one match had his nose broken; he did not have a visor on his helmet and so was out of cricket for a week. His next match took place in the Bunbury A Grade, and he scored 128, despite feeling rather tentative at first about playing against short-pitched bowling again. This proved a great boost for his flagging confidence.

He continued to play second-team cricket in Perth, scoring a couple of fifties without being an outstanding success, before he was promoted to the first team, for which Alderman was still playing. He scored 32 in his first match, batting at number six, but he failed to win promotion in the order. At one stage he was moved down to number eight, but promptly scored a sixty, and was reinstated. He had just turned 18, and this was immediately before the club semi-finals, to be played at the WACA ground in Perth. He was late for the match after some car trouble, to find three wickets had fallen for 17 runs, and he had been due to bat at number four! He eventually went in at six, and scored 69 out of the team total of 184. His team lost the semi-final, but the opposition included players with state experience. He found it encouraging to have some of them come to him after the game with such comments as, "Well played, youngster; I see a bright future for you at this ground."

He then decided to spend a season playing semi-professional cricket in England, for Streetly in Sutton Coldfield, in the Midlands. He had a good season, scoring almost 1000 runs and taking over 20 wickets at an average of 18. Returning to Australia, he was selected for the state Under-19 team, and scored two centuries in the tournament, including 140 in the final against New South Wales at the WACA. His team was chasing 363 in 96 overs, and they succeeded with about seven overs to spare.

This led to selection for the Australian Under-19 team, but they had no unofficial Test matches to play: they had squad training at the Australian Cricket Academy instead. He spent the whole of 1992 there, and was picked for the Academy's tour of South Africa. His season developed notably towards the end, in the company of such players as Ricky Ponting. Four of them were invited back to the Academy the following year: Murray, Ricky, Glenn McGrath and Warren Wishart. He enjoyed another good season for the Academy, and was put into the first-class squad. After scoring 150 at the WACA against the Western Australia second team, he thought he was on the verge of first-class cricket, but was disappointed.

It was not until the following year, 1994/95, that he made his debut, for Western Australia against the England tourists, during the absence of the national team players in Pakistan. He scored 91 and 77, and was primarily responsible for denying the tourists victory. His success again boosted his confidence and self-belief, and encouraged him to think of a full-time playing career. However, the elation did not last long, as the rest of the season was to prove a rather up-and-down experience.

In the next match against Tasmania, batting again at number three because Justin Langer was in Pakistan, he tried to leg-glance a ball down the leg side from Shane Young, only to get an edge to the keeper, out for a single. He was furious at such a soft dismissal, especially on such a good batting pitch. A century from Damian Martin and 272 from Tom Moody left him feeling he had missed out badly. He found himself dropped on the return of Langer for the next match. He did regain his place, but returned, to bat at number six for several matches before again losing his place. He admits the competition for places in the team was 'pretty cut-throat'. He finished the season with an average of 35, which he found reasonably satisfying.

He returned to England in 1995 and enjoyed a very good season for Guisborough, in the North Yorkshire-South Durham league, scoring 1700 runs for an average of about 89. He finished second only to West Indian Clayton Lambert in the league batting, and felt ready to return to Australia and cement his position in his state team. The opening batsman Mike Veletta had departed for Canberra, and a young player named Mike Hussey had been chosen to replace him. The plan was that, if he failed, Murray would take his place and open the batting. He was therefore omitted from the first match, but Hussey enjoyed a successful season and Murray never played a match for the state that season.

The selectors wanted him to open the batting in club cricket, which he did. He had considerable success, but so were the state's Sheffield Shield batsman, and he did not enjoy opening as much as his usual position at number three or four. So he told the state selectors that they had now seen him score a couple of centuries and knew that he could be a success as an opening batsman but, since they had no immediate use for him in that position, he would return to his preferred position in club cricket. His only sniff of first-class cricket then was when he was made twelfth man against Tasmania; he had expected to play because Damian Martin was at that stage averaging 14 for the season, but the selectors decided to give Martin a final chance, and he responded with a double-century. Thus restricted to club cricket, Murray averaged around 65 and finished with the highest average.

He decided against returning to England during the off-season, but rested before 'giving it a full go' during the 1996/97 Australian season. He had another very good club season, but, apart from a single match at New Year, did not win back his place in the Western Australian team until February, when Justin Langer went on tour to South Africa. Batting at number three, he immediately celebrated with 127 and 77 (run out) against Queensland at Perth, and came close to joining a select band to score two centuries in a match for Western Australia. In the Sheffield Shield final against the same opposition at the same ground, his 63 out of 165 in the first innings saved his team from utter rout, but failed to save the match. He finished the season with an average of 61 from his five matches.

However, he was already moving towards the decision to return to Zimbabwe. He had played a one-day warm-up match against the Zimbabwe team when they toured Australia in 1994/95, scoring a fifty, and several of the Zimbabwean players told him he should return to the country and enjoy a career in Test cricket for his native land. These were players he had grown up with in Zimbabwe, and it sowed the seeds of the idea in his head. But he was enjoying his cricket in Australia at that stage, had won a place in the Western Australian team and was doing well. When he was omitted during the following season, he was more open to the idea. Other Australian states also approached him informally, suggesting a move eastwards, but he did not commit himself. His thoughts were rather that, if he was going to move, he might as well return to Zimbabwe where he still had a lot of friends and had a better chance of playing international cricket.

He began to think of this more seriously when he failed to gain selection for Western Australia at the start of the 1996/97 season. He wrote a letter to John Traicos in Zimbabwe, saying that if he could be offered a contract, he would be very interested in returning to the country. Traicos replied positively, and Murray duly arrived back in Zimbabwe at the beginning of September 1997.

He arrived directly from Holland, where he had been player-coach for the Excelsior 20 club, and had finished top of the league batting averages. The highlight for him was his selection for the Dutch national side, which played Worcestershire. While there, he chatted to the Worcestershire coach, Zimbabwean Dave Houghton, about his plans; Tom Moody, captain of both Worcestershire and Western Australia, was also there, and he urged Murray to give it a further season in Australia, but admitted that he would not blame him if he left. But Murray realised that if he did return to Western Australia, he would have to bat at number six when the full side was available; at the age of 25, he could see no immediate prospect of a Test place, whatever his form, and when current Test players retired, perhaps in three years' time, he would probably be too old for first consideration. He knew that his most realistic hope of playing international cricket, which he hopes to do for ten years or more, was to return to Zimbabwe while he was still young enough; every delay would make it more difficult and less likely.

Unfortunately, as he had not yet been approved officially for residence by the Zimbabwe government, the Zimbabwe Cricket Union did not offer him an immediate contract, although he did have a work permit. It took several weeks for the Zimbabwean government officially to restore his citizenship, forcing him to miss the tour by New Zealand and the visit to Kenya for the one-day triangular tournament.

He stayed with his brother Darrell and his family in Harare, and joined Alexandra Sports Club. His grandfather is a life member of the club, and Darrell is the captain and a long-standing member of the first team. Despite other offers, he decided to remain loyal to the family club, and enjoyed the idea of playing in the same side as Darrell. He was immediately awarded his favourite number three position, although he has opened for them on a couple of occasions. He made his first-class debut in Zimbabwe for the Mashonaland A team playing Matabeleland in Bulawayo, and scored 78 in each innings. They were very different knocks: in the first innings he scratched around rather uncertainly for a while before finding his form and confidence. In the second, however, with his team looking for a declaration, he launched an assault on the Matabeleland bowlers, reaching his fifty off only 29 balls and batting just 46 balls altogether for his 78.

With the failure of the Zimbabwe Cricket Union to provide immediately the financial support he needed, he was grateful to have arranged for him by Andy Pycroft and Kevin James, of Crest Breeders, a part-time job with Kevin's company. The arrangement was for Murray to be free to play and train whenever he needed to, but to be on call to do odd jobs for Kevin at other times. Kevin also agreed to sponsor Murray when he started playing for Zimbabwe. This was a vital cog in the wheel for Murray, who might otherwise have returned to Australia rather than waste time in Zimbabwe, without pay and waiting for the red tape to be removed. Kevin also provided Murray with a car, another 'perk' he had expected to be included in his contract with the Zimbabwe Cricket Union.

Murray returned briefly to Australia in December to get married, and returned later in the month with his bride, in time to join the national side on tour to Sri Lanka. After a fifty in a warm-up match, he went straight into the Test team, batting at number three -- in effect a replacement for Dave Houghton, who had announced his retirement a few weeks earlier. He knew it would be no easy task to fill Houghton's shoes but was confident that he could handle the situation. And so it proved.

His main worry was in facing Muttiah Muralitharan, and he was uncertain that he could 'pick' him. He had faced Muralitharan before, when the Australian Academy team visited Sri Lanka in 1993. He was not a great sweeper of the ball then, not having played the stroke enough, but he realised he needed to be able both to sweep and also to move down the pitch to spinners. He names this tour as a big learning experience as he watched the play and learned to think as the Sri Lankans thought. He backed his own ability to beat the cunning Sri Lankan field placings, even against the spinners. He spent much time practising the sweep stroke, helped by Andy Flower who helped him in particular to get his head to the ball when playing the stroke.

In the two Tests he scored two seventies, which he knows should have been hundreds, getting out to Muralitharan once in his four innings. The major highlight of the tour, though, was his century in only his second one-day international. He came in early, with Grant Flower dismissed with the total on 3, so he had plenty of time to build an innings, which he generally does with great care before unleashing his strokes. He went on to score 111, more than half his team's total, but it was not enough to bring victory. He learned a lot and found a different kind of pressure from Test cricket. Again this innings boosted his self-belief, proving to him that he could score centuries at the top level if he applied himself. However, he has yet to play as well as that again in one-day cricket.

In common with the rest of the team, whose morale had been badly damaged by the scandalous end to the Second Test in Sri Lanka where the refusal of the umpires to answer legitimate Zimbabwean appeals handed an undeserved victory to the home side, he found the New Zealand tour that followed a disappointment. None of them felt at home on the green pitches with the moving ball. He kept making solid starts to an innings, only to get out before building on them. Analysing his batting, he decided that he was trying to play at the ball too early and needed to be more selective in playing or leaving the moving ball.

Zimbabwe returned home to play Pakistan, and in the First Test a magnificent fighting century by Grant Flower lifted the team to put the disappointments of the tour behind them and play at a level closer to their true form. Murray failed to score in his first Test match at home, receiving a superb ball from Waqar Younis that moved away and took the edge to the keeper. He felt he should have been able to leave that ball. In the second innings, with Zimbabwe struggling at 19 for three soon after he arrived at the crease, he struggled against Waqar and a spell of blistering pace bowling by Shoaib Akhtar, but hung on. His reward was to see Waqar leave the field with an injury, and he was able to take advantage of a weakened bowling attack, already missing the injured Wasim Akram. After reaching his first Test century he took the bowling apart, hitting four big sixes and scoring a further 66 off only 43 balls before the declaration came. It was a great help to share a large partnership with Andy Flower, who besides being a steadying influence is a left-hander; they kept the singles coming, rotating the strike well. Their unbroken partnership of 277 remains a record for any Zimbabwean wicket in Test cricket.

Two fifties in the Second Test enabled him to finish the series with an average of exactly 100. He found the sheer pace of Shoaib, together with his fierce bouncer, a great challenge, but thought Wasim the hardest bowler to face, as he was unpredictably good and the batsman could never anticipate what was coming. Waqar he found more predictable.

After two useful innings in the unsuccessful one-day series, it was off to India for a triangular series also including Australia. He found his former temporary countrymen treated him well, were complimentary towards him and he encountered no sledging, although when he went in to bat Mark Waugh was brought in to field close to the bat. He was facing Shane Warne; the first ball was short of a length and he was able to hit it for four through the covers off the back foot, and then score a two through Mark Waugh's legs. He reached a quick and confident fifty at almost a run a ball, but then became overconfident and was bowled by Warne, with his team needing five and a half runs an over. The middle order then collapsed and the team slumped to defeat.

He found it a learning experience to watch the Indian batsmen Tendulkar, Jadeja and Azharuddin in action, especially in the second match against the home side when the latter two shared an unbroken stand of 275, then a record for any wicket in one-day internationals. The message that came across was to give nothing away and keep it simple. Azhar told him that there was nothing wrong with his batting; it was all in the head and he just needed to be patient. He could make a slow beginning to an innings but would pick it up later.

Overall, though, Murray was not too satisfied with his batting in that tournament. Zimbabwe kept losing quick wickets in the middle order, and he blamed himself for making forties and fifties and then getting out. He worked on this during his 1998 league season for Guisborough, when on bowlers' pitches, where the average team score was 120 to 140, he scored over 1000 runs in 22 matches. With his medium pacers he also took almost 50 wickets, returning the best average in the league.

His second international season was to be less successful than his first, especially in one-day cricket. He began with a couple of fifties in the Commonwealth Games at Kuala Lumpur, but was out trying to be too adventurous. Then came the tour by India, which concluded with Zimbabwe winning only their second victory in test cricket. Murray found the greatest challenge lay in facing Javagal Srinath, who bowled with fire and moved the ball off the seam. He dismissed Murray on three occasions, keeping the pressure on him all the time, and more than once Murray lost his wicket trying to dominate the bowling. He was learning the lesson of being more patient in one-day cricket. In the Test match he scored two forties, batting patiently the first time, but in the second innings he was furious with himself for getting out just before the close while looking for quick runs. This precipitated a batting collapse, but in the end the match was won.

With Neil Johnson coming into the team, Murray was moved down to number four in the one-day side, which did not appear to suit him. He failed in the Mini World Cup in Bangladesh and had a 'terrible time' in Sharjah, despite a fifty in the opening match against Sri Lanka. He was dismissed by very good balls on a couple of occasions, but in the main he put his poor form down to faulty technique, which resulted in a loss of balance. He corrected the fault by the time the team reached Pakistan.

In Pakistan he was restored to the number three spot for the one-day series as Johnson was promoted to open the batting. Then he began a long spell of scores between 10 and 30, getting started but failing to carry it through. In the third one-day match he survived one of Wasim Akram's most brilliant one-day bowling spells, only to fall for 29.

The First Test against Pakistan proved a new experience for him. He had never before seem a pitch like the one at Peshawar: very patchy, with areas of thick grass and baldness side by side. Zimbabwe did not know how to bowl on it, and in the Pakistan first innings bowled far too few deliveries in the right area, allowing them to run up 296. Johnson saved the day for Zimbabwe with a superb century, but Murray was second highest scorer, with only 29. Then the pace of Henry Olonga shattered the Pakistani second innings, but Murray also pays tribute to the superb support he received from Heath Streak and Pommie Mbangwa, who bowled line and length, swung the ball, and the Pakistanis didn't know which balls to leave. When Zimbabwe needed 162 to win, Murray made sure of it with a determined 73 not out, watching the ball patiently but taking full advantage of any loose deliveries.

He was one of Waqar's early victims in the Second Test, and this was the end of Zimbabwe's international cricket for several months. In March they played in a triangular series in Bangladesh, also involving Kenya, and Murray's frustrating run of moderate scores continued, as they did in the World Cup in England. He eventually broke through to score a determined 57 against New Zealand in the first Super Six match, his first one-day fifty for 18 matches. More publicised was his fine 47 against Australia at Lord's which gave Zimbabwe a temporary hope of victory, as he shared a century partnership with Johnson. He was over-reliant on nudges to third man, though, and when the Australians blocked that gap he grew frustrated at being tied down and hit a catch to deep midwicket. This began a middle-order collapse and Zimbabwe were never again in the hunt.

Murray's highest career score in any class of cricket is 188, for Subiaco against Wallaroo in Perth club cricket; fatigue on a hot day, he thinks, cost him a double-century. He does not remember the greatest number of wickets he has ever taken in an innings, although he does remember as an eight-year-old taking six wickets for two runs (one of which was a wide) in a school match for the Groombridge Colts in Harare.

The three outstanding bowlers he has faced during his career, he feels, are Shane Warne, Bruce Reid and Carl Rackemann. He remembers playing in a club match against Reid, coming in after losing an early wicket, and being forced to play out eight successive maiden overs against him. Reid was bowling a perfect line and length, the ball was moving a bit on a slightly damp pitch and swinging both ways in the air, at a fast pace and with considerable bounce, and Murray found him impossible to get away.

When playing the first-ever day/night Sheffield Shield match against Queensland, Murray came up against Rackemann, bowling with a yellow ball. In the humidity of the evening, Rackemann was not only swinging the ball but also cutting it off the pitch at a genuine pace, with great accuracy, and Murray found he knew all about tough cricket. He played Shane Warne at the WACA; he knows Warne quite well, and found he was talking to him during his innings: "Come on, Muzz, see if you can play this ball," and so on. He got a lot of bounce, and Murray found he could turn his leg-spinner a couple of feet when he wanted, but on other occasions only six inches, and all with remarkable accuracy. He found it impossible to predict the amount of turn, much more difficult than to spot than his flipper or googly. This experience stood him in good stead when he faced Australia in international cricket.

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