Charlie Lock - a short biography
FULL NAME: Alan Charles Ingram Lock
BORN: 10 September 1962, at Marondera
MAJOR TEAMS: Zimbabwe (1987/88-1995/96), Mashonaland Country Districts (1995/96), Mashonaland 1996/97-1997/98)
KNOWN AS: Charlie Lock. Nickname: 'Chivaro'
BATTING STYLE: Right Hand Bat
BOWLING STYLE: Right Arm Fast Medium OCCUPATION: Agricultural consultant
FIRST-CLASS DEBUT: 8-10 September 1987, Zimbabwe v New South Wales (Harare Sports Club)
TEST DEBUT: 13-17 October 1995, Zimbabwe v South Africa (Harare Sports Club)
ODI DEBUT: 31 January 1996, Zimbabwe v New Zealand (Wellington)
BIOGRAPHY (February 2000)
Charlie Lock is a right-arm pace bowler who relies primarily on seam and swing, who will probably go down is history as a man who had one golden season in international cricket at the age of 33, and then disappeared from the scene as quickly as he had arrived. The fully story, though, is not quite as simple as that.
Charlie comes from a farming background and to this day is a man who loves the outdoors and prefers Districts cricket, which he still plays for Ruzawi, to any other form of the game. He comes from a family of six children whose father lost a leg in the Second World War and so lost the opportunity to play sport himself, but was keen to provide his family with every chance to excel, particularly at cricket and tennis.
Tennis was actually the family's number one sport but Charlie, who did not get as far there as the rest of his four brothers, later gave priority to cricket. All captained their school tennis teams, but the others went on to represent the country, one being captain of the Davis Cup team for ten years. His brothers also represented Zimbabwe at table tennis. Charlie remembers how at the age of six he had to get up at six every morning to practise against the wall of the grading shed before breakfast. At the age of eight or nine, it was the turn of cricket. "We used to spend our lives playing on the lawn," Charlie says, as he and his brothers played in teams, two against two.
The family farm is situated near Mucheke, about halfway between Harare and Mutare, and is now run by one of Charlie's brothers. Charlie began his schooling at Mucheke primary school as it was most convenient, but it was very small and there were few sporting opportunities there, so he progressed to Godfrey Huggins in Marondera, and then to Hartmann House and St George's College in Harare where he had his real formative education. He learned a great deal from his coach at Hartmann House, Dave Bawden, who also played a few matches for the national side and was idolised by the boys.
For the Under-13 team at St George's he remembers taking the almost unbelievable figures of five wickets for 11 runs off two overs against Ellis Robins School. His best performance for the school first team was eight for 21 against Churchill School. Until his promotion to the first team at the age of 15 Charlie had been an all-rounder who usually batted at number three, but now the team was so strong in batting that Charlie was placed well down the order at first, although later he moved up to number five and even scored a couple of centuries. He also represented the national side at Under-13, Under-16 and Under-18 level.
At St George's Charlie was coached by former Sussex pace bowler Jim Cornford, although he says that Cornford was more of a batting coach - somewhat surprising considering Cornford's career batting average of five! He learned more about batting than bowling from him.
Charlie feels he never really made the most of his batting at adult level, and blames this on the policy then evident in Zimbabwean cricket at the top level, which tended to neglect all-round skills unless the player was outstanding in both departments. His batting was never encouraged at adult level, and so he concentrated on his bowling.
Immediately after leaving school Charlie joined Alexandra Sports Club in Harare under the captaincy of Duncan Fletcher, a powerful side that also included such players as Jackie du Preez, Jack Heron, Richie Kaschula, Gary Scott and overseas professional Jonathan Agnew. He learnt a lot from these players, but his main memory is of playing in a knockout final against Old Georgians Sports Club.
Charlie was a secondor third-change bowler at that time, used mainly to complete the overs, he says, but on this occasion Fletcher got his sums wrong and tossed the ball to Charlie who had to bowl the last over, saying nothing more than, "Get on with it." Charlie, tense and with white knuckles, bowled a rank long hop for his first ball, which was hooked for six to end the game.
At the end of the season Charlie returned to the farm in Mucheke and joined Manicaland, where he spent five years, his 'best club years'. Leg-spinner Terry Coughlan was captain, and also in the team were Peter Rawson, There was a great deal of talent in that team, but Charlie felt they were ignored by the selectors because they were not a Harare team. He was still chosen for the national squad of 18 which prepared for the 1987/88 World Cup in India and Pakistan, though he did not make the final cut.
Charlie also started playing Mashonaland Country Districts cricket at the age of 18, for their local side Ruzawi. He feels that this type of cricket proved a real nursery for a number of youngsters as it was always great fun and gave everybody a chance to experience a few top-quality players at their own level.
Charlie made his first-class debut just before that World Cup, against the touring New South Wales team, taking three wickets for 88. He also played a Zimbabwe B match, posthumously awarded first-class status, against Sri Lanka B, and two seasons later a match against the powerful Young West Indies team. He does not find any of those matches particularly memorable, though.
In 1989 he left for England, working as a consultant for Rothmans tobacco company. He was based at Aylesbury, not far from Oxford where he joined a club called Tiddington, 'a great bunch of fellows and I had a wonderful time there'. He only played club cricket, but found it good fun. At that time he was firmly on the career path and had no international aspirations at all. He did a lot of travelling, being away half the year, but enjoyed his club cricket when he was at home during the English summer.
His dream was to reach the Village Knockout Final at Lord's, and three times Tiddington reached the quarter-finals, only to be knocked out. Then, in the year he returned to Zimbabwe, 1995, the club phoned him up to let him know that they had reached the final - although they eventually lost. "Just to rub a bit of salt in the wounds," Charlie chuckles.
Charlie had returned to Zimbabwe in April 1995 after his contract was up, and immediately plunged into winter cricket for Ruzawi. He was bowling very well, and also took plenty of wickets when he played for Harare Sports Club in the national league. "English wickets are soft and forgiving," he says, "and I learned quite a lot about swinging and seaming the ball while I was over there because the conditions are quite ideal for that. When I came back I was very fresh and had a lot of good matches."
It was a remarkable achievement to come from six years of nothing more than club cricket and be playing in the national team within months. "I've always kept myself fit," he says, "and I think that's a very important factor, especially with bowlers." He took six wickets in a Logan Cup match for Mashonaland Country Districts and then six in an innings for a President's XI against the touring Tasmanian team, and within a week was a surprise selection for the Zimbabwe team in its first Test match against South Africa.
Charlie took five wickets in what was to prove his only Test match. He had broken his forefinger badly in the nets a week before, breaking the main tendon, but he could still use it for bowling, if not for batting. He did scored a valuable innings of eight not out in the first innings, in partnership with Heath Streak, the runs coming from two boundaries - "but those were more from fear of getting my hand hit!" However the injury put him out of cricket for three months after that, before returning and doing enough to book his passage to New Zealand and the World Cup.
In retrospect, though, Charlie feels that he should not have been in that side, but the selectors of the time were paying too little attention to bringing on young players, which he feels was poor policy at a time when a larger pool of players was urgently needed. He feels this policy had been in operation throughout his career, and that he would have done far better had he been given the same opportunities at the age of 21 or 22, when he was young enough to change or adapt.
Charlie enjoyed his New Zealand tour, although feeling that the team did underachieve somewhat. He found New Zealand pitches rather slow, where apart from Christchurch the ball rarely came on to the bat, taking a bit of seam but little bounce and making it hard work for batsmen and bowlers alike. Bowlers soon learned the value of discipline, bowling a tight line and length and trying to vary their pace as much as possible. He did not play in the Tests but was selected for the last two one-day internationals in the series of three. He did nothing in the first of these, which saw Zimbabwe heavily beaten, but played a crucial part in the third, at Napier.
Zimbabwe batted first and scored 267 for seven off their 50 overs, a vast improvement on their performances in the first two matches. New Zealand, however, were going well at 228 for five with seven overs left. Charlie had had a bad first spell, conceding plenty of runs in four overs, and captain Andy Flower gave him one more over just to allow the bowlers to change ends. In that over Charlie saw the New Zealand captain Lee Germon coming down the wicket towards him, so he fired in a yorker which removed his leg stump. He then had Roger Twose lbw, trying to work a straight ball down the leg side, which completely altered the balance of the match. Dipak Patel almost immediately tried to hit him out of the ground, but only succeeded in giving a gratefully-received return catch. He finished off by having Danny Morrison lbw and bowling Dion Nash to give himself five wickets for five runs in 11 balls, in 15 minutes.
Zimbabwe won by 21 runs, but Charlie feels that New Zealand threw it away, as they could have pushed their way to victory had they taken things more calmly. The crowd, he remembers, was extremely partisan and went deadly quiet every time one of their wickets fell, and this inspired the Zimbabweans with fresh determination. If a player made a mistake, he was the butt of much barracking from the spectators.
After that the team travelled straight to India, which Charlie feels was a mistake to do without a break. It made for an almost three-month tour, and many of the players were worn out by the end of the World Cup. For that reason Charlie found it a disappointing tournament; if the players were not tired enough to start with, they had plenty of long-distance travelling to do around this huge country in a short space of time.
Charlie played in all the matches, opening the bowling opposite Heath Streak, but only took three wickets, but all the Zimbabwe bowlers struggled on that tour. In the first match, against West Indies, Zimbabwe were bowled out for 151, but they sensed that the West Indies were a very brittle side at that time and thought they still had a chance of victory. They went down by six wickets, though.
In the final match, against India, which was to be his last appearance in an international match, he took two wickets, but remembers more being hit for 18 in his final over by Aday Jadeja, sending the crowd of about 35 000 'absolutely mad'.
Throughout the tour, though, Charlie was hampered by an injury to his Achilles tendon, caused by overuse and bowling on the hard pitches of India, but he was of course unable to give it the long break it needed to heal. He recovered gradually during the off season on his return, but then picked up a groin injury in a club match for Harare Sports Club. He was bowling to Dave Houghton when he slipped on the wet ground and injured himself. This put him out of the reckoning for the national side and he was never to return.
When fit again, he realised that the selectors would be looking at younger players and at the age of 35 any future international cricket was doubtful. He thought he had about three years of good cricket left in him, but another factor was that if he threw himself into cricket again it would jeopardise his consulting business, and he was not prepared to do that. He played that season for Harare Sports Club, thought about returning for a third year, but decided against it.
Charlie was never a bowler of genuine pace and preferred generally to come on as first change. "As an opening bowler there are a lot of pressures on you to try and be quick, and I found if I tried to bowl fast I lost a lot of my ability to swing and to seam the ball. I found that in concentrating more on the pace that I'm comfortable with, getting the aspect of delivery right and shortening the run-up, I could get a lot more success with seam and swing, keeping the really quick ball up my sleeve." He has always bowled a fairly similar style, resisting attempts by others to change what he finds most natural.
He pays tribute to John Traicos for much of what he learned as an adult, especially his advice on rhythm. He also learned a great deal from Peter Rawson during his Manicaland days, especially about how to use the seam of the ball. Most of the rest, he says, he learned for himself, the hard way.
Charlie's main dislikes among opposition batsmen were those who would not try to play their shots, those with a limited range of strokes out of which they were never prepared to venture and gave the bowler little hope. Of individuals, Dave Houghton generally gave him most trouble, especially on the Old Hararians pitches which were very flat in those days. "He was a remarkable batsman - upset your line, upset your rhythm; as soon as you got into a groove he would counteract to upset it," says Charlie. At international level he bowled against Brian Lara, who played some amazing shots, and Sachin Tendulkar, who looked the sort of batsman unlikely ever to get out.
As a pace bowler, Charlie usually spent a lot of time on the boundary at fine leg or third man. He has a fine throwing arm but dislikes the long catches and would far rather take the reactive catches closer in.
His main regret is that his batting was never developed to its full potential. He realises there is an important place in modern cricket for the bowler who can bat, but at adult level he was expected to specialise. In 11 first-class matches his highest score was 16 and his average 9, which was far below his true ability.
Charlie still plays winter cricket for Ruzawi, and feels that at the age of 37 he is bowling as well as ever, but otherwise wants to take a break from the game for a while to concentrate on his young family, as he has two children and a third on the way. After that he fancies the idea of taking charge of a school team, beginning at the Under-13 level and taking them all the way through to the senior team, passing on the knowledge he himself has acquired. "That's one of the things I think is lacking in this country, that we don't have enough people putting back into sport," he says.
Brought up on a farm, Charlie is very much an outdoors person, an avid fisherman who travels all over in pursuit of good fishing grounds. He plays golf, and tennis for Old Georgians Sports Club and spends a lot of time out on the farm or in the bush. He finds tennis and cricket complement each other well, in eye-to-ball co-ordination, fitness, use of the same muscles and the same approach to the game. He was wise enough to give rugby up at an early age, before suffering any of the lasting injuries that many of his rugby-playing friends have.