Trevor Gripper - an Interview
John Ward interviews Zimbabwe's latest Test cricketer, Trevor Gripper, immediately after the match against Australia from 14-17 October, in which he scored 4 and 60.
JW: Trevor, when did you first hear that you had been selected for the Test squad to play Australia?
TG: I had just played in the President's XI match against the Australians in Bulawayo and got some runs there in the first innings, and I was told after the match was over that I was in the Test squad, and it was confirmed that I was in the team two days later. So it was a bit of a rush!
JW: What happened between then and the start of the Test?
TG: I got off the plane from Bulawayo and joined the Test squad for practice and training straight away.
JW: What was the atmosphere like among the team before the match?
TG: It was different! I knew most of the guys anyway, and there was a good buzz in the team, but it was different. We talked basically how to play the different bowlers, such as Colin Miller and Shane Warne.
JW: How did you feel yourself?
TG: Well, I think it helped scoring runs in Bulawayo, which gave me the confidence to know I could score runs off those bowlers.
JW: How did things go on the morning of the match?
TG: Pretty well at first. We wanted to bat first, so we were pleased to win the toss. We did some running around and stretching exercises before the start.
JW: And as the Zimbabwe innings went on, and you were down to bat at number seven?
TG: We lost a few wickets in the first couple of hours, so it wasn't a great start. I knew I was going to have to go in and hold things together, and it wasn't so easy as I'm used to opening the innings and knowing when I'm going to go in to bat. I'd had a few words with the Aussies after the Bulawayo game, and they are quite a strong-minded bunch who will have a go at you on the field. Justin Langer told me, "You'll have a dry mouth and your legs will be like jelly," knowing from his own experience. But I settled in and batted through to tea, but unfortunately I got out straight afterwards. Shane Warne had been bowling before tea, and I played him all right, then the first ball I faced after tea I didn't really pick. I thought it was a normal leg-spinner but it didn't turn as much. I played forward to it but it hit me on the pad and I was given out lbw.
JW: What were your thoughts on the Australian innings?
TG: Well, Steve Waugh really showed us how to bat in a Test. He's a great player and he had an innings of substance, batting through and making sure he passed our target and more so. He's definitely a player for youngsters to look up to and model their game on, the way he plays, his mental fibre. Mark Waugh plays a few more shots than Steve. He's a class player, and I'd hate to be a bowler bowling to him because he plays so many shots. He also batted very well. We dropped a few catches and thought we were cursed at one stage! They made us pay for them.
JW: I saw you fielding in the slips a few times.
TG: Yes, I was quite happy to field in the slips. When I was in England last season I fielded in the slips quite a bit, and at fielding practice here we were doing fielding practice, short catches, so I thought I would give it a go and caught quite a few. I enjoy fielding in the slips -- third slip and gully mainly.
JW: When were you told you would be opening the second time round?
TG: During lunch of the third day they mentioned to me that I might be going up the order because Glenn McGrath bowls well to the left-handers, and they might out me in at the start of the second innings to try to hold out against the new ball and see it off. I'm more accustomed to opening, even after being in the field for a long time chasing the leather. So I got stuck in and did the job, saw it through to the end of the day when we were one wicket down. Starting off, I was just looking at seeing off the new ball and bat through sessions. Grant Flower looked more to dominate the bowling and he played very well, while I just hung around with him. When I came in again on Sunday Murray Goodwin and myself got stuck in and had a good partnership before lunch. We looked to get through the first two hours of the day and then bat on for as long a time as possible.
JW: How did it affect you coming up towards your fifty?
TG: I was rather nervous at first when I got into the forties, and I can remember one streaky shot when I went down the track to Shane. Murray helped me a lot out there; we had a chat at times, and it was a good experience batting with him.
JW: I can remember one over when you tried a couple of times to cut Shane Warne almost off the stumps -- we were getting worried about you!
TG: Yes, he bowled a few balls that weren't quite up there, and I thought I could get back and cut. In Bulawayo I played him mainly off the front foot because of his top-spinner, and in the second innings in the Test he didn't bowl any that really turned a lot; he bowled a lot of flippers and skidders. He bowled very well, and after I had a bit of luck with those cut shots I thought it wasn't a percentage shot, so I forgot all about it and concentrated on playing him straight.
JW: After reaching your fifty, any particular change of approach?
TG: It was obviously a milestone to reach my fifty and I was very happy with it. Once I got to the non-striker's end after a single to reach my fifty, I spoke to myself and said, "Come on now, get a hundred." My partnership with Murray was going very well and we got 98 together in the end, so we needed to carry on there and dominate the bowling a bit more. It was just that last half-hour before lunch on Sunday when they bowled very well and we weren't scoring as freely as we were earlier on in the day. I went back to a ball from Colin Miller that didn't really turn and got given out lbw -- which was pretty plumb.
JW: How did the Australians treat you out in the field?
TG: They are a hard bunch of guys and they play hard cricket. Obviously they are going to have a go at you verbally and things like that, but that's part of the game -- as long as we have a beer and a laugh afterwards that's good. If there is sledging on the field I don't react to it at all, I rather just take it with a pinch of salt.
JW: We were going well until the afternoon drinks break -- I don't know what somebody may have put in them, but everything seemed to go wrong after that. What was the atmosphere like in the dressing room then?
TG: Yes, we just lost too many wickets too soon. We were looking to be at maximum four wickets down at the end of Sunday, and we were about 160 for two when I got out just before lunch. Then it was just downhill from there. The atmosphere was pretty good to start with, but I think as wickets fell I think guys got a bit nervous about having to go in and stick it out there. But they have faith in each other -- Guy Whittall has scored a double hundred, for example; I had full faith in the guys to go out there and do the job. It was just unfortunate -- a couple of catches didn't go our way -- and it's a strange game: bang, bang, bang, and it's all over.
JW: You mentioned Murray gave you some good advice during your innings; anybody else you found particularly helpful during the match?
TG: Grant was very good as well; between overs he helped me out a bit. When I was cutting at Shane Warne he was batting with me, and advised me to cut it out as it's not really a percentage shot to play at that stage. The mind-set was very good between us.
JW: Did you have any complimentary comeback from the Australians off the field about your innings?
TG: I spoke to Allan Border afterwards, and he said I had quite a good technique and played the seamers pretty well; he said it's a good start to a Test career for me, and he thinks I can mature a bit more and play a bit more positive cricket later on. In that situation obviously playing for time was what was needed, but he said that with my technique I could grow as a player later on.
JW: You are rather like Grant Flower in that way; early in his career he had a tight technique but tended to be very defensive, and developed by practising a different new shot each season.
TG: Yes, what they had to say was that I could start off with a good defence and then build on it later on.
JW: Any further thoughts on the Test?
TG: I definitely expected it to last five days; it was just that after lunch on Sunday everything went downhill for us. It was a good experience, and I look forward to playing a lot more Tests.
JW: Did you find the pitch easy to bat on?
TG: Yes, it's a very good pitch. I haven't actually played any longer matches at Harare Sports Club, not even a three-day game on that square. So it was an experience for me. I had heard the history of the wicket, but it was a good five-day Test wicket.
JW: How do you asses the Australian bowlers?
TG: Glenn McGrath is obviously a world-class bowler, and obviously I treated him with the utmost respect. They bowled me a lot of bouncers to start off with and I thought I played him rather well. He has a very good off-cutter. Damien Fleming is a very good swing bowler -- he swings it both ways, he's a fine bowler and I had the utmost respect for him as well. Also Shane Warne; I didn't get many short balls from him at all. I rate him as the most difficult bowler I've faced in my career so far. All the Australian bowlers are world-class and they don't give you anything.
JW: About how many matches of three or more days have you played in your career altogether?
TG: I don't know the exact figures, but I played in five when I was at university, at the Eastern Province academy, and a few Board XI games for Zimbabwe B at the end of my career there, so I've probably played about 15 three-day games.
JW: And the rest one-dayers, so you have done remarkably well with your lack of experience in the longer game.
TG: Yes; I prefer the discipline of the longer game to the one-dayers, and the way I play I think I have a future in the longer game.
JW: So you're off now for the Board XI match, and then hopefully for the Test in Bloemfontein.
TG: Yes, I have a game against Easterns starting on Thursday, and then we'll see how it goes for the Test against South Africa.