Second Innings

Players on their careers and hobbies outside cricket

Eddo Brandes

From fowl to fruit

From chickens to tomatoes - farming has been Eddo Brandes' mainstay

Nagraj Gollapudi

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Zimbabwe players celebrate their big win over England, Zimbabwe v England, third ODI, Harare, January 3, 1997
Brandes back in the Chicken George days © Getty Images
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Players/Officials: Eddo Brandes
Teams: Zimbabwe

I was "Chicken George" before I moved into tomato farming, my present profession. That nickname was given to me by my Zimbabwean friends when I was playing cricket and running a chicken-farming business. I now manage the farm at the Nora Valley Development on the Sunshine Coast in Australia.

When I made my debut, we were not professional cricketers, so I bought a business. It was just an opportunity that arose. Luckily my family was involved in farming, so I already understood the basics necessary for the new job. The most important thing is being organised, understanding what the business is about and preparing and planning for it. It is like preparing yourself for a Test series, except you have to do it every day.

Farming of any kind is not a one-man job. I need to liaise with various people at various levels. Back in Zimbabwe I had about 35 people working with me. In the morning we started off by feeding the chickens. Then from 10 o'clock we'd pick and select eggs and pass them to the grading team, who would categorise the eggs. Later through the day we would mix the feed for the chickens. It was hard work, no doubt.

Now a normal day for me begins at half-past five in the morning and stretches for the next 12 hours. I oversee the whole lot. I control the environment for the crop, do the irrigation while making sure we feed the right nutrients, and then make sure the picking of the crop is done properly. Then I liaise with the supervisor who looks after crop work, making sure the required standards are adhered to in growing the crop. Hygiene is critical in any sort of farming, so one needs to pay attention to the minutiae. The product is then graded, following which I deal with marketers in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne. On an average we produce between 40 and 50 tonnes of tomatoes a week.

It may sound uneventful, but it is anything but. I'm always in a team environment: dealing with people, understanding how people work, and getting them to work well. To be a successful cricketer one needs to pay attention to detail, and work out what and how you could do better. That has become second nature to me in my farming job, and that is because of my cricket past.

I don't get to play much cricket, though. When I moved to Australia I first started with coaching the Sunshine Coast cricket team for six years. The team won the Brisbane cricket competition for the first time. That experience also allowed me to settle easily into the new environment.

I've found that if you put in the effort to say "G'day" to people, they react positively, and once they find out I used to play cricket, things happen quickly for me. Ian Healy was very kind, helping me with contacts in Brisbane and helping me find my feet.

I have been very lucky to be able to play international sport and also run a successful business and enjoy my family. As in sport, so in life: you have to play at your best.

As told to Nagraj Gollapudi

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