November 24, 1999

Gary Brent on his first Test match

Gary Brent is a medium-fast bowler and useful batsman who two or three years ago was generally thought of as no more than a useful player perhaps in one-day matches, but was never expected to progress too far. Through sheer hard work and enthusiasm Gary has proved them wrong.

He made his Test debut for Zimbabwe against Sri Lanka in the Bulawayo Test match just concluded. Here he talks to John Ward about the experience.

JW: Gary, when did you hear that you were in the Test squad?

GB: It was after the match in Kwekwe, where the Academy had just played the Sri Lankans, on the Wednesday, two days before the Test. I just heard that I was in the squad, so I didn't know whether I was going to play in the Test.

JW: What performances do you think helped to get you into the Test squad, when there are so many other useful candidates around?

GB: I think perhaps my six wickets for the Academy in Kwekwe, and also in the President's XI game against the Sri Lankans I got a fifty as well.

JW: And after you had joined the squad, when did you hear you were actually playing?

GB: I was told the day before, the Wednesday afternoon in Bulawayo, when Davy Houghton came up to me and told me I was playing.

JW: You have played in some one-day internationals before.

GB: Yes, five: two against Australia, two against India and one against Pakistan.

JW: Was your approach any different to the Test match than it was for your one-day internationals?

GB: Yes, Test cricket is the big thing, and bowlers have to take wickets as opposed to containing the batsmen. My role in the side to tie up one end, but in Tests I have to take wickets as well. Tests are really more meaningful, the top thing to aim for in life.

JW: Did you feel any different before the match than you did before your one-day internationals?

GB: I was a lot more relaxed actually, to my surprise, than I was before my one-day internationals, mainly due to having played these guys before and done well against them.

JW: Can you talk your way through the first day of the match with the team?

GB: After our warm-up we tossed; we were going to bat anyway if we won the toss, so it was a bit of a relief when we were put in even after losing it. I was very, very relieved we were batting first! It was nice to watch the guys batting through for two and a half sessions.

JW: How did you feel when you went out to bat?

GB: It was an incredible feeling, a culmination of things for me, the most important day of my life so far. I've worked all my life for this. My one-day match here against Australia was incredible but this was a lot more so. Unfortunately it was very short-lived. [Note: Gary was unfortunate to be given out first ball, caught at short leg off bat and pad, although television replays showed that he had not in fact hit the ball.]

JW: And when you prepared to take the field?

GB: When we lost our last wicket on the second day there were definitely butterflies flying around my stomach! It was all a bit of a blur when Andy threw me the ball and I started to bowl. Thank goodness my first over wasn't such a bad one and Jayasuriya wasn't facing because he would probably have had a go at me, but Atapattu was content to see the ball go by. My first over was a maiden which relaxed me a lot.

JW: What was your aim when you first came on to bowl?

GB: All I was trying to do was hit a length just outside off stump, not trying to do anything with the ball. Thank goodness it happened early so I was able to get in a rhythm.

JW: And there were a couple of wickets you might have taken before you actually got your first.

GB: Yes, I had Atapattu playing and missing. I bowled him five really straight balls and then he had a big swish and missed -- it was close. Later on I had him playing and missing a forward defensive stroke which everyone behind thought was out but I didn't think he nicked it. There was also an lbw appeal, I forget who it was against, but I don't know how close that was.

JW: Can you describe how you took your first wicket?

GB: I bowled a nice straight half-volley on the stumps and Jayawardene played across it; he was hit on the pad and was pretty plumb lbw. That was a huge relief and a great milestone for me to take my first wicket on my first outing too.

JW: And the second?

GB: We had just moved fine leg to third man and I kept telling myself, "Don't bowl down leg, don't bowl down leg!" So of course I pushed one down leg and de Saram had a big swish at it, got a little nick and gave a nice easy catch to Andy - that was a bit of luck.

JW: By this stage you were obviously trying to do a bit more with the ball.

GB: Yes, I was just trying to bowl outside off, swinging the ball in to the off stump, and also every now and again trying my awayswinger which is a new ball I've been working on. But my main objective was to bowl outside off stump and hit the deck as hard as possible.

JW: You also fielded very well during the match.

GB: That's something I try to work hard on as I know the feeling of a bowler when people misfield, so I try my hardest to field as well as I can and I didn't let anything go through this match But I have a lot of dirty trousers and scraped kneecaps to take home because my technique is lacking a bit!

JW: You must have mixed feelings about the final day being washed out.

GB: Yes, we would have liked to have batted out a draw to give us a bit of confidence but in many ways it's not a bad thing it has been rained off as it's made the job a lot easier.

JW: Who would you say helped you the most during the course of your first Test match?

GB: All the senior players were brilliant to me but most of all Alistair Campbell who was very good to me. In the field I could always hear his voice in encouragement all the time, and all the others as well. When I took my first Test wicket he ran up to me, put his arm round me and said, "VERY well done." But it's been the whole team really - it's been a whole team thing. They made me feel very relaxed and very much at home. There have been rumours that team spirit has been lacking in the Zimbabwe team, but that's absolute rubbish - there's excellent team spirit; everyone's together and everyone wants everyone else to do well. The feelings are very good in the camp, very confident. It's just been a very good experience really, something I'll remember all my life.

JW: Have you been able to strike up any friendships with any of the Sri Lankan players?

GB: Yes - Suresh Perera. We met when we were both at the MRF Pace Foundation in Madras, and we often get together and have a chat.