Stuart Carlisle - a Short Biography
Full Name: Stuart Vance Carlisle
Born: 10 May 1972, Harare
Major Teams: Zimbabwe (1994/95), Mashonaland Under-24 (1993/94, 1995/96), Mashonaland (1996/97).
Present club team: Harare Sports Club.
Known as: Stuart/Stuey Carlisle
Batting Style: Right Hand Bat
Bowling Style: Right Arm Medium Pace (occasional)
Occupation: Professional cricketer
First-Class Debut: Zimbabwe B v Orange Free State B, at Harare Sports Club, 29 October 1993
Test Debut: First Test v Pakistan, at Harare Sports Club, 1994/95
ODI Debut: 22 February 1995, v Pakistan, Harare Sports Club
BIOGRAPHY: (updated September 1999)
Stuart Carlisle is the son of a first-class cricketer, as his father, Harare businessman Alistair Carlisle, represented Transvaal B in the Sixties. He is the youngest of a strong sporting family; his older brother Gary, now in America, is a strong all-round sportsman, especially hockey, while his mother was a top softball player who played for Rhodesia and his sister has represented South Africa at hockey.
Stuart himself, born after his father returned to this country, first played in his back yard with his brother and sister; later on, Alistair joined in to help and instruct in the basics. He first played matches at Courteney Selous Primary School before moving to St John's for his final two years, and also made great progress at the Eagles holiday cricket programmes, run by George Goodwin. In his final year of junior school, he scored his first century, against Ruzawi, one of the country's strongest junior school teams, and was awarded a bat. Later on, attending high school at Peterhouse, just outside Marondera, he played in the school first team during his final three years there. Captain in his final year, he scored 181 in one match, having previously made his highest score to date of 196 for the Under-15 team. He represented Zimbabwe Schools, touring Australia in 1988 and England in 1989, and then to Australia again two years later. He was among the top batsmen on each of his tours. The tour to Australia was a particular pleasure, with the team playing some of Australia's top school sides and winning ten matches, against only two defeats. Stuart pays tribute to the help given him by the Peterhouse coaches Alan French and Mark Jardine.
After leaving school, he worked for Claude Neon Signs for eighteen months before deciding to attend Natal Technikon, earning a Bachelor of technology degree in marketing. He played in South Africa for the Natal Technikon club which won the premier league in 1995/96. In the champion of champions competition between all the top club sides from the various South African provinces that year, Technikon finished second. During his limited time with them, Stuart played an innings of 140 and a couple of fifties, and was also selected for the South African national Technikon team. His team-mates included Lance Klusener, Derek Crookes and Tertius Bosch. He found doors closing there due to the 'affirmative action' campaign, though, and moved on to play for Durban High School Old Boys, and later Pirates.
Stuart has played for most of his career in the middle order, but in 1993 he decided to open the batting, which he considered later to be the best move he had ever made. Critics said that he did not have the technique to be an opener at the top level, and it was true that the visiting English team of 1996/97 finally put paid to his ambitions to open at international level. Before then, though, he did prove that he has the guts and determination, the ability to hang on doggedly against the best new-ball bowlers.
He began his career as an opener with four fifties in a row in league matches and was immediately promoted to the Zimbabwe Board XI, in 1993/94. After a quiet start, he finished the season with a determined unbeaten 111 against Natal B. Further good innings for the same team the following season earned him a Test place, replacing wicket-keeper Wayne James who had not scored enough runs, in the selectors' eyes, to warrant his retention when Andy Flower could add wicketkeeping to his batting and captaincy.
This First Test against Pakistan, which resulted in Zimbabwe's maiden Test victory, remains Stuart's most memorable match, even though, down to bat at Number Seven, he didn't even get to the crease. He did sit with his pads on for eleven hours, as Grant Flower shared two massive partnerships with his brother Andy and then with Guy Whittall! But three fine catches all helped materially towards Zimbabwe's innings victory. He has always been a superb fielder.
Mark Dekker was Grant Flower's opening partner at that stage, but he was out of form and confidence, and after a gutsy innings of 46 not out against Pakistan on a poor pitch at Queens Sports Club in Bulawayo, Stuart was promoted to open the batting in the Third Test in Harare. He scored a dogged 31 in almost three hours in the first innings, but failed to score in the second, so his introduction was at that stage only a partial success. He enjoyed a bit more success on the tour of New Zealand the following season, where in the second innings of the Second Test in Auckland he scored a fine 58, sharing an opening partnership of 120 with Grant Flower, then a record. But Dekker was preferred, perhaps because of his more ready availability, for the tours to Sri Lanka and Pakistan in 1996/97.
His Test career received a long-term setback during the England tour, as the visitors exploited his weakness against lifting balls on his body. He was twice out to close catches from such deliveries, and was dropped from the team. Being the man he was, he did not consider his international career to be over, as many did, but rather concentrated on this weakness and continued to tighten his technique.
He did not lose favour immediately, being selected for a triangular tournament in Sharjah in April 1997, but batting at six or seven while Craig Wishart was given the chance to prove himself as an opener. He was not altogether prepared for this tournament, getting a last-minute call-up from Durban, and class spin on helpful pitches saw his exclusion after the first two matches, although he puts it down as valuable experience. He feels he learnt a great deal about how to deal with spinners, handling their length as well as their line. But for now he seemed to drop out of the selectors' minds. With the success of Gavin Rennie as Grant Flower's opening partner against New Zealand in 1997/98, the way back to international cricket was hard, especially as he was not available for cricket in Zimbabwe until November 1997. He eventually decided, following the advice of others, to return to the middle order to regain his place at international level, despite considerable competition for places in that area. He now found it suited him better to bat in the middle again; although he was still willing to open if desired, he finds the pressure less in the middle order and he feels greater freedom to play his shots.
At club level, he plays for Harare Sports Club, moving there initially after a year at Old Hararians so as to open the batting. He acknowledges the encouragement he receives there from senior players like Iain Butchart and Malcolm Jarvis, and also at national level from Dave Houghton and the Flower brothers.
Early on in his life as a student in South Africa, Stuart did not find it interfering unduly with his cricket. He made his decision to take his course before professionalism really came into cricket in Zimbabwe, and decided to try to get the best of both worlds, pursuing his diploma while playing cricket at the same time. After he was dropped from the Test team after the England tour, though, his absence made it harder for him to keep in the selectors' eyes and fight his way back, and he was unable to do so until the 1998/99 season. When he graduated, he considered the possibility of running his own business in retailing or import and export, perhaps with sporting goods, but these plans were put on hold when the Zimbabwe Cricket Union offered him a contract in November 1998.
Stuart, settled back in Harare, now dedicated himself to regaining his place in the national side. He scored well at club level, and also worked at improving his 'little seamers', hopeful of adding another string to his bow. He soon won coach Dave Houghton to his side, impressing him with his tremendous determination and application. He continued to work at his back-foot play, adjusting his game and playing the cut more often, together with the occasional pull.
He had a consistent season in club cricket and was selected again for the Zimbabwe Board XI to bat at number four. He had never been forgotten at that level, and the previous season had scored 140 against Transvaal B in Johannesburg. He had an overall average of around 60 and was developing into a faster scorer, simply by working harder on his attacking strokes all round the wicket, and now his repertoire even included the reverse sweep.
He won selection for Zimbabwe A against the touring England A team, impressing them with some determined batting. In the rain-ruined first unofficial Test at Alexandra Sports Club, he achieved a notable feat by batting on all four days possible owing to the weather in compiling a frequently interrupted innings of 47. In the one-day series he scored 80 off 67 balls to put his team in a strong position, one they eventually wasted, and the tourists learnt to value his wicket highly, unlike their senior counterparts two years earlier. His recent record and even more his attitude regained him his place in the national team for the triangular tournament in Bangladesh and also the World Cup in England.
Success was hard to come by, though; he generally found himself batting at seven or even eight in the order, and if he got an innings he either had to hit out at all costs or fight to recover a difficult situation. Against weak opposition in Dhaka this was not too great an obstacle: he produced scores of 35 (off 43 balls), 43 off 48 and 42 off 29. But in the World Cup this was more of a problem and he did not succeed. The pressure appeared to stifle his ability at times, and he was heavily criticised for scoring only 14 off 38 balls against England at the death, when he seemed so devoid of strokes against the seamers of Alan Mullally that he several times attempted no stroke to rising straight deliveries, even though Zimbabwe had an inadequate total and the overs were fast running out.
He lost his place after two further failures, but returned to the team at the start of the 1999/2000 season. His next aim is to win back his Test place, no easy task with so much more competition around these days. But if anybody has the right attitude, approach and determination to do so, it is Stuart Carlisle.