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Adam Huckle - a short biography

MAJOR TEAMS: Zimbabwe (1990/91-1991/92, 1997/98- ), Eastern Province (1992/93-1995/96), Matabeleland (1997/98- )

John Ward
FULL NAME: Adam George Huckle
BORN: 21 September 1971, at Bulawayo
MAJOR TEAMS: Zimbabwe (1990/91-1991/92, 1997/98- ), Eastern Province (1992/93-1995/96), Matabeleland (1997/98- ). Present club team: Queens Sports Club
KNOWN AS: Adam Huckle. Nickname 'Huck'
BOWLING STYLE: Leg Breaks and Googlies
OCCUPATION: Farmer (cattle); professional cricketer
FIRST-CLASS DEBUT: Zimbabwe v Glamorgan, at Bulawayo Athletic Club, 2 April 1990
TEST DEBUT: First Test v New Zealand, at Harare Sports Club, 1997/98
ONE-DAY INTERNATIONAL DEBUT: 11 October 1997, v Bangladesh, at Nairobi
BIOGRAPHY (updated October 1999)
Adam Huckle, on his return to Zimbabwe in 1997 after seemingly being lost to South Africa, immediately created a considerable stir in the country. His well-flighted, deceptive leg-spin and its variations made such an impression that he immediately benefited from a selectors' gamble to play him alongside Paul Strang, two leg-spinners in the same Test team.
Adam's father, who still farms at Turk Mine in Matabeleland, is Mike Huckle, a former Matabeleland cricket stalwart who also played in a first-class match for Rhodesia in 1966/67 as a slow left-arm bowler who could also bat. It was his father who first introduced Adam to cricket on the ranch at home, and Adam remembers playing with his dad 'all the time' when free during his youth.
Adam furthered his cricketing career at Hillside, and later Whitestone, primary schools in Bulawayo. He was an all-rounder throughout his schooldays and, although his batting talent was neglected in South Africa, he could well become a fair batsman at first-class level. He attended Falcon College, as did many other current national players, although he was not in the same year as any of them. He took some good wickets, although he doesn't remember taking more than five in an innings, and was at that stage generally rated as a much more promising bowler than Paul Strang, a year his senior and who did not appear in first-class cricket until later than Adam. He also scored 115 in a match against Peterhouse. He played for the Zimbabwe schools teams at both primary and high school level, touring New Zealand with the national schools team, but has few specific memories of his best school performances; he plays cricket for enjoyment and is little bothered with the statistical side of his career. "If you don't enjoy it, you stop playing," is his philosophy.
After leaving school, Adam won a place at Rhodes University at Grahamstown, South Africa, to study pharmacy, a five-year course. It was while he was here that he was first selected to play for Zimbabwe, against the English county teams Glamorgan and Worcestershire. To this day Adam cannot think how he came on to the selectors' lists at all, as he had played no club or other adult cricket in Zimbabwe; presumably the selectors had noted his school record and kept track of his progress at university. He also played a match against Australia B, but in his three first-class matches for Zimbabwe before Test status was granted he took just five expensive wickets.
Probably a combination of his absences at university and the emergence of Paul Strang took him from the forefront of the cricket scene in Zimbabwe, but he was never totally forgotten. He was soon prominent in university circles, and remembers taking eight wickets in an innings in an early match for that team. His first-class debut was for the South Africa Students against the Indian touring team, and he was soon snapped up for Eastern Province as well.
In 1993/94 he enjoyed a fine provincial season for Eastern Province. He took 34 wickets in the season, including 6/99 against Boland, and was now being talked of as a future Test player. On finishing his university career, he accepted a contract with the Eastern Province Cricket Union and stayed on in the area, working first in a retail company and then in a factory. The following season was not so successful, although the highlight was to take ten wickets in a Currie Cup match against Border at East London.
Despite being selected as a member of the South African Under-24 team to tour Sri Lanka in 1995, his career seemed to go backwards instead of forwards. He failed to take a first-class wicket in three matches on that tour, and on his return to South Africa made little impression even when demoted to the Castle Bowl competition. His province seemed to lose interest in him, and he appeared in only a few club matches, for Union, in 1996/97, where by his own admission he played badly.
Finally he decided to return to his father's ranch in Zimbabwe. He was welcomed back with open arms by the cricketing community, and soon found his enthusiasm again. He found new purpose in practice and soon the old skills seemed to be returning. He joined the Old Miltonians club, then the only Bulawayo team in the national league, a situation which made it difficult for other Bulawayo teams to develop, as all the leading Matabeleland players tended to flock there.
At the start of the 1997/98 season he was a certainty for the Matabeleland team, despite their embarrassment of riches in the bowling department. In the Logan Cup match against Mashonaland he looked no more than steady at first, as he tended to push the ball through too quickly. When he slowed down, he bamboozled and bowled Grant Flower, who was on the verge of a century, and produced a superb delivery to dismiss Craig Evans without scoring. He continued to impress, and was immediately placed in the squad of 18, and later 14, players to face New Zealand.
His first Test match vindicated the selectors' gamble, although it finished in disappointment as New Zealand fought a superb rearguard action to save the match. Adam was not brought on until late in the New Zealand first innings, but he had more bowling to do than his captain perhaps intended, with the dual purpose of keeping play going in poor light and saving time. But he made the most of his opportunities: although being punished for a few bad deliveries, an occupational hazard for an attacking leg-spinner, he took five wickets in the match and returned better figures than Paul Strang. Certainly he put in a strong claim for a permanent Test place. On a less satisfactory note, his aggressive appealing led to a fine by match referee Sidath Wettimuny for attempting to intimidate the umpire.
His second Test, at Queens Sports Club in Bulawayo on a pitch tending to help spinners, brought him unimagined success. Never before had a Zimbabwean bowler taken ten wickets in a Test match. Bowling in tandem with Paul Strang for most of the match, Adam worked his way through the New Zealand line-up, taking six wickets in the first innings and another five in the second when the tourists were chasing runs. He proved expensive and produced a fair number of bad deliveries, but his good ones were enough to cause problems for the New Zealanders, who have very little practice against leg-spinners. Perhaps in view of this, his figures were slightly flattering and he was to find the going much harder elsewhere. But it was still a remarkable start to a Test career.
He admitted to feeling tired, quite naturally, at the end of the match. He found the good degree of bounce in the pitch a help, and concentrated on keeping the ball just outside the off stump. He remembers the tactics were for him to bowl only googlies to the big-hitting Chris Cairns, and he dismissed him cheaply in both innings.
In view of his comparative lack of accuracy, Adam was omitted from the one-day internationals against the New Zealanders, but played in five of the six matches on the tour to Kenya. He took only two wickets, though, and proved expensive, so this was an area of the game which clearly needed further work. Adam feels that on this tour he was not getting close enough to the stumps to bowl his best.
He had still not resolved the problem when the Zimbabweans toured Sri Lanka. He took only one expensive wicket in the First Test and was omitted from the Second. By his own admission, he was too lacking in accuracy, but he worked on his problem and was rewarded by a place in the third one-day international. He bowled much better then, from closer to the stumps, and felt he was in good form, although failing to take a wicket. Adam's career bowling average in one-day internationals is at present almost 100, a complete travesty of justice as he has so often bowled well without taking wickets. His style of bowling is not really suited to one-day cricket, but he has done far better and bowled more valuably than his figures suggest.
He was given a lot of bowling to do on the tour of New Zealand that followed, although the slow, low pitches in that country hardly support his type of bowling. Returning home to face Pakistan, he was remarkably omitted from the team for the First Test on the Queens Sports Club ground where he had been so successful against New Zealand. Reinstated for the Second Test, he again bowled well but with only two rather expensive wickets to show for his pains. If he enjoyed a degree of luck in his great Test match against New Zealand, the balance has certainly swung the other way since then.
The 1998/99 season was a rather frustrating one for him. Zimbabwe had in effect an embarrassment of riches with both Adam and Paul Strang available as leg-spinners, and the selectors often had to choose between the two. Paul, and also off-spinner Andrew Whittall, were more economical and therefore better suited to one-day cricket; Adam was generally acknowledged as the better Test bowler than Paul, who had become more defensively inclined probably as the result of too much one-day cricket, but Paul's superior batting often tipped the scales, especially as Zimbabwe also played two other non-batsmen besides Adam in Henry Olonga and Pommie Mbangwa.
An injury to Paul gave Adam a chance in the third one-day international against India, and he bowled eight overs quite economically for the wicket of Saurav Ganguly. In the Test match, which was to provide Zimbabwe with only its second Test victory in its history, he surprised with his highest Test score. It was a valuable innings too, as he came in with the side reeling on 181 for eight, with only Adam, Olonga and Mbangwa to come. While Olonga defended, Adam hit out, and the pair added 33 valuable runs together, and Adam finished undefeated on 28 out of the eventual total of 221. He bowled well but took only the wicket of Ganguly, again, in the match.
In Sharjah Adam played in only one match of the five while Paul got the nod, and also yielded to Paul in the one-day series in Pakistan. Then came another injury to Paul, but Andrew Whittall was preferred to Adam in the First Test, which Zimbabwe won. Adam played in the second, on a seamer's pitch, but took two wickets and also made a useful 13. If not an all-rounder yet, at least he showed signs of coming to terms with his batting at the top level. In the triangular tournament in Bangladesh, he played in three matches out of five.
Adam was perhaps fortunate to be selected for the World Cup in England, as pitches in that country are nowadays generally unsuitable for spin, and Zimbabwe already had Strang and Whittall as their regular one-day spinners, although in the Test arena Adam was considered superior to either. They also had Grant Flower's left-arm spinners to fall back on. It was perhaps inevitable that Adam should spend more time in the nets than in the middle, although he did play in three matches. This was largely because Paul Strang's all-round form was declining, though, until he lost his place in the team.
His first was at Chelmsford in the historic victory over South Africa. Adam played a valuable part which is once again not reflected in the statistics, helping to pin the South Africans down with a vital spell of ten overs for 35 runs. He also played against New Zealand, where rain prevented him from bowling, and against Pakistan, where he dismissed Wasim Akram lbw second ball and was himself the middle victim of Saqlain Mushtaq's hat-trick, unwisely leaping down the pitch to his first ball to be comprehensively stumped.
This in-and-out situation did nothing for his peace of mind, though. At the start of the 1999/2000 season, he decided he had had enough of going on one tour after another and spending so much of his time out of the team. When the Zimbabwe Cricket Union offered him another C-Grade contract he turned it down, and still refused when it was improved to B-Grade. He announced that he was giving up cricket altogether in favour of farming. The authorities were now most concerned at the prospect of losing such a fine talent, and continued to appeal to him to reconsider. After a month, Adam eventually relented and agreed to return to cricket, subject to farming commitments, but it was too late for the Australian tour. It remains to be seen in the future whether he will be able to pin down a regular place, although his prospects look better with Paul Strang's continued loss of form and confidence.
Alistair Campbell feels that Adam's fellow leg-spinner Paul Strang, when in form, is more consistent than Adam; Adam bowls a bit quicker and turns the ball more, and they complement each other very well. Adam has the ability to bowl genuine wicket-taking deliveries, while Paul keeps it tight from one end, so they are able to keep the pressure on the opposition. Alistair refutes the suggestion that Adam might bowl better still if he slowed down a bit. He compares Adam to the Indian bowler Anil Kumble, who hurries the ball on to the batsman, except that Adam turns the ball more. When he succeeds in bowling one of his best deliveries, the batsman is committed to the shot and does not have time to adjust. Adam often gives his top-spinner a lot of air, and he bounces it as well. With more consistency in line and length, Adam should reach still greater heights.
Interestingly, Adam finds little difference between playing cricket in South Africa and in Zimbabwe, except that there are many more players down there and there is more money in the game. The pitches he finds similar, the same kind of people play, and he doesn't feel there is significantly more aggression in the South African game than in Zimbabwe.
Adam has no specific ambitions, but just looks forward to continuing to play and enjoy the game. When pushed, he thinks of Steve Waugh, against whom he bowled in his early Zimbabwe days, as perhaps the best batsman he has bowled against. Although South African batting has some doughty performers, he cannot name any of them as being in a class of his own; he has rarely bowled against Hansie Cronje, who often takes spinners apart.