Cricket, too much cricket!: Houghton

Haydn Gill

April 4, 2000

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Kingston - Amidst a disappointing string of results on their first trip to the Caribbean, a Zimbabwe team official is lamenting the recent demanding schedule in international cricket.

Coach Dave Houghton made the comment after Zimbabwe lost their second successive match in the triangular limited-overs series to follow two consecutive defeats in the preceding Test series against the West Indies.

'I would say in general too much cricket is being played,' Houghton said in response to question about if he reckoned there was too much of a concentration on the shorter form of the game.

'We are a small nation of cricketers. We pick our side probably from about 20 players and we've been playing non-stop since August.

'Our first break will come in August this year. That will be for a month and then we play from there non-stop until February. Overall it's probably too much cricket.'

Since last October, Zimbabwe have been involved in two one-off Tests against South Africa, another against Australia and a series of three Tests against Sri Lanka. In between, they also had 20 One-Day Internationals in Zimbabwe, Singapore and South Africa.

There was some evidence of fatigue here in the two One-Day Internationals at the weekend and the high standard of fielding they set during the two Test matches could not be sustained.

Before the two One-Dayers at Sabina Park, Zimbabwe took two days off following the Tests, a move their captain Andy Flower tried to justify after Saturday's match.

'I think rest is necessary to keep people sharp,' he said.

'We've been on the road for a long time and we are going to be on the road for another three months.

'Rest is very important, mental rest as well as physical. I don't think that was contributing factor (to our loss). We just weren't as sharp and as clear-thinking as we should have been.'

The heavy diet of cricket seems to have taken a toll on two of their more established players.

Alistair Campbell, who has appeared in each of Zimbabwe's 41 Tests since their inaugural one in 1992, and Neil Johnson, a star of last summer's World Cup, have managed very little and both were dropped for Sunday's match.

The two left-handers were dismissed in single-digits three times in the Test series and again in the first One-Day match on Saturday.

'It's not an easy decision for any touring party or any selection committee to leave out your senior players, but at the end of the day, one good performance in every ten is not good enough,' Houghton said.

'Guys have got to be in there performing and players of that calibre should be able to perform once every third or fourth innings.

'We're not getting that at the moment, so it's time to give some other guys a crack. The bottom-line was to get some youngsters in there and see if they could get the job done.'

He speaks with optimism about keeping alive their hopes in the series that also features Pakistan

'We will go into the games against Pakistan with a bit of confidence,' he said in looking ahead to the first of those matches tomorrow at the Antigua Recreation Ground.

'The last time we played them in a Test series at home we beat them and we also beat them in one of the One-Dayers.

'We are actually looking forward to seeing them. They are a good side, but we have beatenthem before and what we are doing is focussing on the fact that we have beaten them before. We also know that we have to win both games.'

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