November 24, 2000

Dave Houghton: looking forward to the Logan Cup

While talking to Dave Houghton about Zimbabwe's international cricketers, I also mentioned a few names of those who had done well in the Logan Cup last season, and asked him if he thought any of them might be good enough to win a place in the Test team in the near future - for example, Neil Ferreira, who scored three centuries for Manicaland but struggled for Zimbabwe A in Sri Lanka against better class bowlers in strange conditions.

"I think we must take the results of that Logan Cup in perspective," he said. "It was the first time we had put up five or six sides and there were no national team players around, so it was going to be a weak competition. The fact that Neil scored those hundreds is good, because at whatever level you're playing that's important. But I think we're likely to see a more realistic competition this year, in February 2001, because all the national players will be back, the A side players will be there and the full complement of our international players will be involved. Then I think you will have more chance of the results being realistic."

I brought up the problem that most of the top players would be playing for either the Mashonaland senior side (the batsmen) or Matabeleland (the pace bowlers). "Not necessarily, you know," Dave replied. "Two of the present national team in India are from Midlands, Friend and Marillier, and Whittall will play for Manicaland. Eight or nine of the others are Mashonas, but I think you're going to find one or two of those guys snapped up by these provinces. It's professional, and if Manicaland offer more money than Mashonaland these guys will go there."

I wondered if the minor provinces might be able to afford to offer good money for top international players, but Dave thought Midlands could, for a start. "I know Manicaland are pretty flush at the moment, so they might also go and buy themselves a player or two," he said. "That's how the game must develop, as far as I'm concerned. We must have professional first-class centres. So if Manicaland for example are struggling and need batting strength, they must come and scout, purchase people, just like you do if you're at Worcester and you need batting strength - you look at other counties and see who's not playing in their first team who might be of value playing in yours." Or else you pinch Graeme Hick from Zimbabwe!

"I think you'll find when the Logan Cup comes the various sides will be fairly even," said Dave. "And there will be a few guys in Mashonaland who should be playing first-class cricket who won't make the sides, so they're going to say, `Hang on a second, let me go and approach Matabeleland or Midlands - I want to play first-class cricket.' That's the way to go.

"Midlands for example don't have a keeper, because I keep for them in national league but I'm not playing Logan Cup. So they've come to the Academy and said they want Colin Delport. So I said, `Go and speak to him; make the arrangements.' Now he plays for Old Hararians and is a Harare boy, but he realizes he may not make the Mashonaland sides because Flower is around, Taibu is around, Donald Campbell is around, and he wants to play first-class cricket. So, `Yes, please; I'll come to Midlands.

"So that's the sort of thing that will happen. I'm sure the Logan Cup will be dominated by the two major provinces of Mashonaland and Matabeleland, but not for much longer. I think slowly these other sides are going to build up. At Midlands they're all youngsters. In their side next February they will have Marillier, Price, Hondo, Travis Friend, John Vaughan-Davies, Colin Delport - they're all 19, 20, 21 years old. Give them two or three years together and you'll have a cracking side. So Mashonaland might dominate for a couple of years, but after that I think you'll find the other provinces will come to the fore again."

Dave will be coach of a very inexperienced Academy team in the Logan Cup beginning next February, and I suggested to him that he might just consider captaining the side for a match or two, especially in view of the fact that their first match is against the powerful Mashonaland side.

"That is the thought we've come up with," he replied. "But we'll have sixteen kids here, so if I play that means an extra guy doesn't play. It might be an idea, but most of the guys coming here next year are in the Under-19 side, who have four three-day games between now and the Logan Cup, so they will have played a fair amount of the longer game. We'll just have to gauge it at the time, and if I think they do need a little bit of extra help maybe I will play. I don't mind if we lose; I'm more into them playing and getting the experience, because that's the only way they'll learn. They don't learn sitting here carrying drinks. You have to be out there and play."