The ICC match referee for the Sri Lankan tour of Zimbabwe was former Jamaican and West Indian wicket-keeper Jackie Hendriks. He talks to John Ward about the series and Zimbabwean cricket in general.
JW: How and when did you become an ICC match referee, and in which series have you officiated before this one?
JH: Each Test-playing country is required to nominate two men for the job and I was lucky enough to be one of the two from the West Indies, in about 1994. I have previously done a series in Australia when they played South Africa, and they also had a triangular series which included New Zealand. I went to Pakistan for a tour by Zimbabwe and Toronto for a Sahara Cup series between India and Pakistan, and then here. I was also here in Zimbabwe in 1995 when Pakistan were here and Zimbabwe beat Pakistan in the First Test match, but lost the series 2-1.
JW: Where do you think Zimbabwean cricket has gone between that series and now?
JH: I have noticed that there are a number of young cricketers from a very young age playing scratch games around the place, which I don't remember seeing much when I was here last. I think that new young players are coming through, in the B side and the Under-19s, which is a very healthy sign, and I would think that in a couple of years Zimbabwe should be able to perform adequately in the Test arena.
JW: And yet I don't think that at present we are performing as well as we did in that series against Pakistan here.
JH: The bowling to me seems to have come along a great deal recently. I saw the Test in Bloemfontein and felt that the line and length of the bowlers was not as good as it should be in Test cricket, but it has steadily improved, and I think that the size of it is that with this improvement runs are more difficult to come by.
I think the batting is what is letting Zimbabwe down now. Andy Flower has virtually carried the batting load for most of the Test matches and this is where they are suffering. The batting needs a little more stiffening and I think a little more belief in themselves. I get the impression, although it may not be true - I'm just giving you my impression - that it's a matter of survival rather than take charge of the bowling and be positive and aggressive.
JW: Could you make some further comments on the Test series, looking at both sides?
JH: This is the first time I have really seen Sri Lanka in Test cricket. I thought they had a couple of really good batsmen. Atapattu played very well in the First Test match, although not so well since, but certainly Arnold and Dilshan are two young cricketers I think are very useful batsmen. I personally think that Dilshan, when he is able to improve his selection process of bad balls and good balls, will become a very good batsmen.
Of course their bowling has been very good in the Test matches. Vaas, their left-handed opening bowler, has bowled very well and been supported by the other quickies, and of course Muralitharan has been impressive, and even the captain Jayasuriya has chipped in with his left-armers, which have been quite tight. I think the outlook for Sri Lanka should be quite bright, and as I said before I think Zimbabwe need to get some more confidence in themselves and play some more positive cricket.
The fielding has been excellent throughout, and it has been quite intriguing to see Zimbabwe fielding, as it was four years ago when I was here. I think that with the development programme you have in place the future is very good.
JW: Have you any additional comments to make about the one-day series so far?
JH: I think the results speak for themselves. Zimbabwe have had two very good starts and unfortunately have fallen away when the openers have gone. Campbell I thought played particularly well after having a very lean Test match season, as did Grant Flower, who played a couple of good innings after a lean season with the bat. Andy Flower of course is a force to be reckoned with, but the other batsmen probably, with the exceptions of Guy Whittall and Goodwin, have not stood out as I think the selectors hoped they would. As a result the batting has fallen away as soon as the first few have been out.
JW: Regarding Zimbabwe cricket in general, what do you feel is going particularly well and are there any areas which you think require a bit more concentration?
JH: I think that Zimbabwe cricket has an excellent administration; I personally have had every co-operation from them and been treated royally. I feel that with the structure that they have the cricket is looking to improve, and I'm sure it will.
I have been here for quite some time and I go after the final one-day match on Sunday. I have enjoyed myself; the cricket is obviously the reason why I am here and that has taken up most of my time. All the matches have gone the distance, and of course the weather has interfered with two Test matches which I thought could have had very interesting finishes. But that's how things go; that's cricket. I think the future for cricket in Zimbabwe is quite bright; they have an academy in place and good coaches, and I see they have gone to Carl Rackemann to help them with their cricket. He's an excellent man and a very good coach, and I think that all these things put together should be very good for the cricket here. The cricketers here seem to be very keen to learn.
JW: What have you been doing while you've been off duty?
JH: I've been sight-seeing and of course writing reports, and it has been good fun. One of the things I never mentioned is that of course Zimbabwe are at a bit of a disadvantage because they are certainly missing a leg-spinner, either Paul Strang or Adam Huckle. And of course Heath Streak is a big part of their bowling, so they have been at a disadvantage in that area. They could have well done with a leg-spinner, and of course Heath with his experience and ability could well have made a big difference.
JW: Do you know where your next assignment will be?
JH: No, I don't; I leave on Sunday evening and plan to spend Christmas with my sister in Scotland, where I understand the temperature is below zero! Then I'm going back home and we go right into our domestic season on 7 January with Jamaica. Zimbabwe will be coming to Jamaica for a Test match and two one-dayers in March/April.
JW: What involvement do you have in Jamaican and West Indian cricket?
JH: At the moment I am the president of the Jamaican Cricket Association; the annual general meeting is in January each year, so I don't know what the future holds, but if I am re-elected I will certainly be very involved in both the domestic and the international matches.
I am also a member of the West Indies Board, chairman of the cricket committee, so that is a lot of work and a lot of responsibility.