From Harare to Hollywood
Given the current climate it is easy to see why people are leaving Zimbabwe. However, moving to the bright-lights of Hollywood, the very same place which has brought us Sunset Strip and Beverly Hills, is one of the more unexpected routes to take. But that's the trip Gary Crocker, the former Zimbabwean Test and ODI allrounder of the early 1990s, has made. Warren Carne spoke to him in Los Angeles.
I left Zimbabwe in October 2002 and arrived in Los Angeles California. I own a small consulting/distributorship company here that consults on golf courses. Basically, working with soils of the greens and help green keepers grow quality turf. My son is quite a talented sportsman, he plays baseball and football and I assist in both of those sports. Sports wise during the cricket season over here, I play for the Hollywood Cricket Club.
What is your current involvement in the game at the moment, apart from a few masters tournaments?
I captain one of the Hollywood CC teams. We play a lot of cricket over here and the standard is not too bad. Players like the ex-West Indian Franklin Rose are over here at the moment. The SCCA (Southern California Cricket Association) want me to be more involved on their board but unfortunately my job takes me away from that. I must be honest though, my playing days are over.
Should a miracle happen inside Zimbabwe would you consider a return to the country?
I have worked hard to get what I am here in USA. To take a chance back in Zimbabwe and risk it all happening again to my children when they are grown up would be selfish. No, I have come too far down the road to ever go back again. I do wish Zimbabwe would change for the better purely for everyone who's fighting for a better future. They deserve a break from what is going on. They are the true Zimbabweans
What's your fondest cricketing memory?
There are many great memories. A few might be making my schools first team, playing for Matabeleland schools in the SA Nuffield trials, making the BAC Club side which at the time had Graham Clinton from Surrey playing there but my greatest memory would be walking onto Harare Sports Club to represent Zimbabwe in their inaugural Test against India. I received a huge compliment from Dickie Bird, one of the umpires of the game, who told me after the Test that he had never seen such a great display of consistent line and length bowling as he did from. I have never mentioned this fact to anybody before but I guess I am old enough to boast with that one now! To actually be able to walk out against a top Test nation like India, who had been around for generations, to wear the green and represent your country in a sport that I loved all my life is something I will never forget.
You made 50 and picked up 4 for 26 on your Zimbabwe ODI debut against India at Harare in 1992-93, quite a game wasn't it?
A high that I had never felt before or have since that day. It was, as you said, my debut. Picking up four sticks for Davie Houghton was fantastic [of which Sachin Tendulkar and Mohammad Azharuddin were two of them] gave us a chance of winning. Unfortunately my 50 didn't get us quite over the line; we came short by 30-odd runs. Still to be part of that was truly a great experience.
|The turmoil has been going on for quite a while and had already begun while I was still involved. Players were being selected on more political grounds rather than playing ability and experience|
Your retirement was at a time when ZC had an extremely strong player base. What do you make of the turmoil inside the game at the moment?
The turmoil has been going on for quite a while and had already begun while I was still involved. Players were being selected on more political grounds rather than playing ability and experience. It reminds me of exactly what is happening to Zimbabwe as a country. Our cricket had a fabulous player base just like our country was the bread basket of Africa. Look at both of them now. Totally ruined by who and what is running both factions. Its sad really because I believe there is a lot of talent there but much of it is being exposed too early and there just isn't the experience in the side needed to guide the newcomers to the squad. Most of the guys playing there would be in the academy, or playing in president teams, just waiting to play in the main team. They really have little to look forward to its happened too quickly for them. To think you could still have the Flowers, Streak, the Strangs, Olonga, Blignaut, Price, Ervine and Taibu playing. Throw in a few youngsters with that lot and let's see what we have?
Do you think cricket in Zimbabwe will ever recover to become an internationally competitive side again?
No, not in my lifetime, that is for sure, even if we get one or two of the older guys back, I don't think it will ever be the of same standard. We are now getting beaten by the likes of Bangladesh, these guys could not compete with the likes of Curran, Houghton, Brandes, Traicos, Flower etc. We just don't have that class of player anymore. We need heroes, kids that want to be like someone great. With all due respect to the kids out there today, there aren't any Taibus or Olongas for the youngsters to dream of being like. Maybe if we get rid of the old administration and start anew we might be something more respectable in years to come but I just cannot see it. With the way things are at the moment, any seriously talented kid is going to be shipped to a country that promises a better future in the game.
Where do you see Zimbabwe cricket being in five years time?
If the same administrators are at the helm, then they will be in exactly the same place they are in right now. At the bottom of the log by a long way and not playing Test cricket. I just don't see anything happening. I mean, look at the domestic cricket situation, it's a shambles.
How do you see Zimbabwe featuring in the World Cup in the Caribbean?
They might get lucky with a warm-up game but the rest is going to be silly. Then again, as an old cricketing buddy once told me, "cricket is a funny game". You just never know. I hope I'm proved wrong but I can't see it happening.