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Cremer return can give Zimbabwe lift

Zimbabwe have received some uplifting news after a disappointing World Cup campaign with the decision of their former legspinner Graeme Cremer to return to international cricket

Tim Wigmore
Tim Wigmore
Graeme Cremer was the most economical of Zimbabwe's bowlers, Australia v Zimbabwe, Group A, World Cup 2011, Ahmedabad, February 21, 2011

Graeme Cremer, in action in Ahmedabad during the 2011 World Cup  •  Getty Images

Zimbabwe have received some uplifting news after a disappointing World Cup campaign with the decision of their former legspinner Graeme Cremer to return to international cricket and indications that Dav Whatmore is close to competing talks about remaining as coach beyond the tournament.
After a combination of five defeats in their six World Cup matches, and the retirement of their captain Brendon Taylor from international cricket to pursue a county career with Nottinghamshire, Zimbabwe might feel that some good news is overdue.
Cremer, 28, played 11 Tests and 43 ODIs until taking an indefinite break from the game two years ago. Advanced talks have been held about Cremer getting a winter contract, with a view to receiving a full contract when the next batch are awarded in August.
Alistair Campbell, the managing director of Zimbabwe Cricket, said: "I've spoken to him and he's keen to come back so that should hopefully happen this off-season. I'm hopeful he'll begin training with the national side when they come back from the World Cup.
"Formal contracts come up in August so he has got time to put the required effort in, try and get into the side and get some game-time and if he does that then he'll definitely be up for a central contract when the time comes.
"But it's not about just handing out contracts. I'm a firm believer that if you want to come back you need to show the powers-that-be and the new coach that you really want to be there."
The return of Cremer will be welcomed after the lack of variety in Zimbabwe's bowling attack was exposed during the World Cup. They conceded at least 285 in every innings, including 372 for 2 against the West Indies and 331 for 8 against Ireland.
Cremer's last game for Zimbabwe was against Bangladesh in April 2013 and, although his Test average is high, at 45.62, he has taken 300 first-class wickets.
Campbell hopes that other players could also follow Cremer's example by returning. "Zimbabwe Cricket is a viable future," he said. "If you want to play international cricket and make a good career of it you're going to get well remunerated for it and have the same sort of career as if you went and played elsewhere in the world," he said.
One player that Zimbabwe miss is the pace bowler Kyle Jarvis, who signed for Lancashire in 2013 but has failed to make an impact. "I think he's found it tough there and had a few trials and tribulations," Campbell said. Is there a chance of getting him back? "Of course, there's always a chance."
Meanwhile, Whatmore, initially appointed on a short-term deal until the end of the World Cup, is on the brink of agreeing a deal to remain as coach. "Discussions have been held and I'm hopeful they'll be concluded pretty shortly," Campbell said.
"He has definitely expressed an interest to work with this bunch of guys and work with Zimbabwe Cricket. He sees potential and he sees that he can make a difference which is great.
"What we need access to is experience and he knows how to get things done not only on the field but off the field as well. It needs a whole revamp in the way we do things and there's no better guy to come and do that than Dav."
Campbell does not deny that the loss of Taylor is a "mammoth blow". He suggests that his decision to join Nottinghamshire on a three-year contract was affected by Zimbabwe's disastrous tour of Bangladesh.
"At the end of that tour he would have been thinking: 'Where's Zimbabwe's cricket going, what the heck are we doing here, we're getting annihilated, what's the future'?
Any sense that Zimbabwe can make progress has come too late. "Maybe he would have thought a bit differently now," Campbell said. "But the decision's been made. We've got to live with it, he's got to live with it. We've got to make the best out of it."
Campbell hopes that Taylor might yet return after the end of his three-year contract with Nottinghamshire. "He'll be 32 when he's finished so he can always come back and be an even better player," he said. In the meantime Taylor is expected to return to play in domestic cricket during the English winter.
One fear in Zimbabwe is that Sean Williams, who scored 339 runs during the World Cup, could follow Taylor and sign as a Kolpak player in England. "I've heard nothing but I don't discount the carrot being dangled there," Campbell said. "He's had a really good World Cup and is a good performer for Zimbabwe so I wouldn't be surprised if there are a few people talking to him. I'd be surprised if there weren't."
Zimbabwe have often been short of cricket in recent years, and Campbell is determined to arrange a busier schedule for the side. Initial signs are promising: ODI and T20 series at home to India and New Zealand are planned for the coming months. Zimbabwe Cricket is also in advanced talks to host Ireland later this year, with a reciprocal tour to Ireland mooted for 2016.

Tim Wigmore is co-author of Second XI: Cricket in its Outposts, a study of Associate cricket