October 27, 1999

Gary Brent - a short biography

FULL NAME: Gary Bazil Brent

BORN: 13 January 1976, at Sinoia (now Chinhoyi)

MAJOR TEAMS: Mashonaland Under-24/Young Mashonaland (1994/95-1995/96); Mashonaland (1996/97 to date). Present club team: Old Hararians

KNOWN AS: Gary Brent. Nickname: GB.

BATTING STYLE: Right Hand Bat

BOWLING STYLE: Right Arm Fast Medium Bowler

OCCUPATION: Farmer, Zimbabwe Cricket Academy student

FIRST-CLASS DEBUT: Mashonaland Under-24 v Mashonaland Country Districts (Harare South), 16 September 1994

TEST DEBUT: Not yet.

ODI DEBUT: 30 October 1996, Zimbabwe v Pakistan (Quetta).

BIOGRAPHY (October 1999)

Gary Brent is a pace bowler, and also a useful batsman, who has been on the fringe of the Zimbabwean one-day team for three years now without being able to break through and earn a permanent place in the side.

Gary comes from a strong cricketing background, and his uncle Jon Brent was an all-rounder, like himself, who represented Zimbabwe between 1988 and 1990. His earliest memories of cricket are of his father bowling to him on the lawn at home when he was very young.

Although Gary is now primarily a bowler who can bat, his bowling is a comparatively recent development. Although born in Chinhoyi, his family soon moved near Harare and he attended Highlands Primary School there. He won his place in the large school's Colts team, which consisted mainly of Grade 5 players, while still in Grade 3, as a batsman and later also as wicket-keeper. This was a role he was to fulfil until late in his high-school career.

He scored his first fifty for the school first team while in Grade 7 and was sent for trials for the national primary school tournament, but did not make the final side. He progressed to Eaglesvale High School, where he was in the same year as the Matambanadzo twins, Darlington and Everton. At first he continued to keep wicket and either opened the batting or went in at number three. It was here that he was coached by Barry Lake, whom he names as the main influence in his cricketing career.

It was Mr Lake who encouraged Gary to develop his bowling. Gary soon became a useful seam bowler, aiming to hit the seam and with the inswinger as his stock delivery. In his final year he hit 108 against the English school Dean Close at the Prince Edward Cricket Festival, in a partnership of over 300 with Doug Marillier, who scored a double-century. He was selected for the national schools team as an all-rounder.

During this year he also played club cricket for the first time, joining Old Hararians who offered free membership to players from schools such as Eaglesvale. He had further encouragement from some of the leading players, and pays tribute especially to Paul and Bryan Strang who gave him a great deal of help, especially on the mental side of the game, and also Dirk Viljoen for his advice with his batting.

After leaving school he started work for his father on the family farm in Norton, which earned him a qualification for Mashonaland Country Districts. During the off season he travelled to England to play for the club at Burridge, where he found the play of quite a good standard, better than Zimbabwean second-league standard he thinks.

After some useful performances at club level, mainly as a bowler, he made his first-class debut in the Logan Cup for Mashonaland Under-24 against Mashonaland Country Districts. Although he took only one wicket, he did play an innings of 40 against an attack containing Test players Gary Crocker, Steve Peall and Paul Strang, and this has surprisingly remained his highest first-class score to date. In his team's next match, against Mashonaland, he took the wickets of Test players Craig Evans (twice), Andy Flower and Gavin Briant.

Gary still has a rather modest first-class record, although he has some good performances to his credit for the Zimbabwe Board XI in matches not ranked as first-class against South African teams, most notably eight wickets against Free State B. It was largely as a result of these performances that he was chosen to tour Pakistan with the national side in 1996/97, a surprise choice even though Zimbabwe's pace-bowling reserves were very thin at that time.

It was a memorable tour for Gary, even though most of his time was spent doing twelfth-man duties. He was particularly struck by the dryness of the country and the poverty of so many of the people there, and also felt very much in awe of the great crowds that filled the stadiums and the noise they created. A great deal of time was also spent driving from place to place in not the most comfortable of conditions. He did play in one international match, making his one-day debut at Quetta, where he scored just one run and bowled five rather innocuous overs. He was clearly not international material yet, and was overlooked for more than a year after this by the national selectors.

His career took an important step forward when he was selected to attend the MRF Pace Foundation coaching course with Dennis Lillee at Madras just before he returned to international cricket in April 1998. He worked hard at his action, especially in putting his feet down in the right places, and feels the coaching was of great benefit, an experience he would be eager to repeat given the opportunity. He feels Lillee's advice on playing in big matches also made a positive impression on him: "Stop, look, and take in the atmosphere."

Gary's second one-day international was no more successful than his first with the ball; playing against India in Cuttack, he again bowled only five rather expensive overs without success, but he did score a useful 24 with the bat, hanging on while Grant Flower reached his century at the other end as Zimbabwe made a late but unsuccessful bid for victory.

The following season he attended the Commonwealth Games, playing in two matches against Malaysia and Sri Lanka, taking one and two wickets respectively in the unofficial internationals. He again played in just one official one-day international during the season, another unsuccessful match against India, but at least he had the satisfaction of a wicket this time, dismissing Rahul Dravid.

Shortly after this he was given a place in the first intake of the Zimbabwe Cricket Academy, a position he had been aiming for as he hopes to become a fully-fledged professional cricketer. He had his first taste of captaincy at first-class level when, in the absence of Dirk Viljoen, he led the academy against the visiting Australian Cricket Academy team, which was to be a rather torrid experience, as the tourists had in their ranks Brett Lee, a bowler of express pace who literally frightened some of the local Academy players. Gary himself showed his unselfishness in the second innings by promoting himself in the batting order, when on a 'pair', to face the fury of Lee when he could have waited until the bowler was rested. He weathered the storm and made a valiant 37, but the team was heavily defeated.

Gary's batting at adult level is gradually improving, although he is still a poor starter to an innings and frequently gets out early. He plays straight and scores the bulk of his runs from drives, while he is also able to play safe and keep an end up if that is in the interests of the team. He scored his first fifties for Old Hararians and also for the Zimbabwe Board XI in 1998/99.

He has already played more international cricket in 1999/2000 than before after two matches against the touring Australian side. But again his bowling failed to threaten or contain the opposition, although he took two expensive wickets in the first match. The indications were that he still needs to develop his accuracy and consistency so that he can bowl better to his field.

A modest man who perhaps still needs to work on the confidence factor, Gary has as yet made no real impression on international cricket, but could still do that with plenty of hard work and mental strength. The next season or two should determine which way his career is to go.

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