Donald Campbell - a short biography

John Ward

February 2, 2000

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FULL NAME: Donald James Ross Campbell BORN: 24 June 1974, at Harare MAJOR TEAMS: Mashonaland Country Districts, Mashonaland, Zimbabwe Board XI. Present club side: Harare Sports Club KNOWN AS: Don Campbell. Nickname: 'Bomber' BATTING STYLE: Left Hand Bat BOWLING STYLE: Wicket-keeper - does not bowl OCCUPATION: Professional cricketer/teacher

FIRST-CLASS DEBUT: Zimbabwe B v Kent, 30 March 1993 TEST DEBUT: Awaited ODI DEBUT: Awaited

BIOGRAPHY (February 2000)

It can be a serious handicap in cricket, or any other activity, to have to live in the shadow of a relative who is an outstanding player and whose ability or deeds it is next to impossible to emulate. Don Campbell, younger brother of Zimbabwean batsman and former captain Alistair, does not feel he suffers from this syndrome, though.

"I've never really considered him as someone to compete against or lived under his shadow," says Don. "He's a far better cricketer than I am, but I'm an all-rounder as I keep wicket, and that's where I shine through. He's a genius, really, and he bats totally differently from the way I do, so I don't even try to compete with him. I do get a lot of that about being Alistair's brother, but it doesn't affect me."

Don's father Iain is one of Zimbabwean cricket's elder statesmen, and he was naturally the major influence in the cricketing lives of both his sons. He was then head of Lilfordia School, still perhaps the leading cricketing primary school in the country. Alistair has told of how their father, putting into practice his theory that a natural right-hander should bat left-handed with the stronger hand at the top of the bat, turned him into a left-hander. Don also bats left-handed, but says he is more naturally left-handed than his brother; everything requiring two hands, such as golf, he does naturally left-handed, although he writes and does other single-handed activities with his right hand.

The two brothers used to play a great deal together, and Don remembers having to drag Iain out of his office to play with them when they were small, as he was a hard worker. More serious coaching did not come until the boys were older, and Iain played the major part in developing their techniques.

Cricket at Lilfordia School began for Don in Grade 2, when he was a member of the Colts team, playing with and against boys three years older than he, although admittedly Lilfordia was a small school. He was mainly a bowler in those days, bowling 'filthy little seamers', but he was large and heavy for his age, slow in the field; he had good hands, though, and Iain soon put him behind the stumps, a position he has kept ever since. He had not taken many wickets as a bowler but soon found success as a wicket-keeper, taking a large proportion of his victims in stumpings as they had a good spinner in the side. In his entire junior school career he took well over 100 dismissals behind the stumps, which he believes is a junior school record in Zimbabwe.

He was also scoring runs too, though without the natural flair of Alistair; he scored some seventies and eighties, mainly opening the batting, although he reverted to the middle order when first promoted to the senior team in Grade 5. He has often opened the batting since then, but has found it stressful at times in adult cricket when required to do so as well as keep wicket. In these circumstances he prefers to bat in the middle order.

Don's regular nickname 'Bomber' began in those years, when he says he was a 'very fat youth' and one of his schoolmates saw him jumping off a diving board, making a huge splash, and the nickname stuck.

His final year at Lilfordia proved prolific with the bat, as he scored over 150 against Bryden and another century against Hartmann House, together with an eighty against a St John's team that included Craig Wishart. At Grade 5 level he was selected for the Mashonaland Country Districts team in the primary schools cricket festival, and in the following two years was also selected for the national side at that level, the Partridges, as captain in his second year.

He progressed to Eaglesvale High School, which did not have a strong team in his year, and he soon found that if he did not score runs the side was invariably dismissed cheaply. He played a lot for the age-group above him, where the coaching was also better; after his first year he played regularly for the older side and progressed to the school first team in Form 3, as wicket-keeper and batsman. He struggled there as a batsman at first, scoring no more than twenties or thirties for a while after some prolific scoring at lower levels.

He was still in contention for representative teams, but missed selection for the national Under-15 team in what he still thinks of as one of the lowest points of his career. The Matabeleland keeper selected ahead of him, he says, had not scored as many runs or dismissed as many batsmen as he had, and he felt 'distraught' at being omitted. The following year he was back, though, and captained the national Under-17 side on a tour to England. He was a regular captain of his school teams from junior school level onwards.

For the sixth form he moved to Plumtree School in Matabeleland, joining his brother there and enjoying a better standard of cricket under the tutelage of Mike Whiley. The school's main rivals were Falcon College, and he found it a real challenge to play them. He scored 203, his highest score in any class of cricket, for the school against a Matabeleland Invitation XI in a match to mark the school's 90th anniversary. He also played rugby there to a good standard, representing the Matabeleland Schools team.

Don played just before cricketing links were re-established with South Africa, so there was no schools tournament down there for his year, but there was a quadrangular tournament when he captained the Zimbabwean side. He captained the team that beat England in the final of the international youth tournament in Denmark; as he remembers it, he captained Zimbabwe youth teams against their contemporaries in England on seven occasions, winning five of them. He was still opening the batting, forming an opening partnership with Jason Elliott that averaged about 60 over a two-year period, and scored a century against Scotland.

After leaving school Don played a couple of seasons in England, 1992 and 1993, playing club cricket for Cheltenham and Liverpool. He averaged about 30 with the bat, struggling on the slow pitches, but found it valuable experience. He worked at St John's for three years as a student teacher, at the same time enrolling with UNISA for a Bachelor of Arts degree by correspondence. For the past two years he has been teaching at Lilfordia and hopes to finish his degree this year. One of his ambitions is the eventual possibility of taking over as head of Lilfordia.

Don started playing club cricket for Old Hararians at the age of 15, but left three years ago to move to Harare Sports Club. He felt in need of a change, although his move annoyed national coach Dave Houghton. The facilities were better and John Traicos was running the nets there, and Don did not feel that Old Hararians were taking the game seriously enough at that time. Don's best first-league batting performance was 130 in his last season for Old Hararians, ironically against Harare Sports Club.

Don made his first-class debut at the age of 18 for Zimbabwe B against the touring county team Kent, and for the next couple of seasons played a lot of first-class cricket, mainly for the Zimbabwe Board XI before they lost their first-class status in the UCBSA competition, and for Mashonaland Country Districts in the Logan Cup. He has averaged over three victims in a match during his career, and actually took seven catches in an innings for the Districts against Matabeleland in one match. His father Iain believes it should have been eight, as a less than efficient scorer wrote down one wicket in the book as being bowled when the batsman had been another catching victim for Don.

Runs have not come so readily, though, and he averages only 15, with a single first-class fifty, a Logan Cup innings of 60 not out back in 1994/95. He was actually a first-class captain at the age of 19 when he stood in for Iain Butchart as captain of the Zimbabwe Board XI in a match against Border B in 1993/94, and over the years has played perhaps more frequently than anyone else for this team. He is no longer sure of his position as Zimbabwe's second keeper, though, as the selectors have recently given trials to younger players such as Bruce Moore-Gordon and Craig Gurr. He did play one match for Zimbabwe B last season against the touring England A team.

Don was appointed captain of Harare Sports Club in 1998/99, where he continues to keep wicket and bats in the middle order. He still hopes to play for the national side, but does not feel he has scored enough runs to warrant a place. He would particularly like to play for Zimbabwe alongside his brother and Andy and Grant Flower, who have all been major influences in his career, but may well only get his chance should Andy suffer an injury. He still hopes to continue playing competitive cricket for another ten years or so.

As a batsman he is not a big hitter of the ball, but is good at working the singles, especially square of the wicket. He enjoys sweeping the spinners, but admits that he struggles to maintain concentration over long periods; he has most of the strokes but says to score more runs he still needs 'to sort his head out'.

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