Graeme Cremer does not tend to attract much attention, but there is a story about Zimbabwe's captain that provides some insight into his character.
He had been rested for a warm-up match against West Indies in Sharjah in March ahead of the World T20 but after Neville Madziva injured a finger while fielding, Cremer had no problem stepping in. He took a good catch on the boundary and then insisted on batting when Zimbabwe collapsed. "That's Graeme - always wanting to improve his game," Kenyon Ziehl, who was there as Zimbabwe's selection convenor, said.
Cremer took on a short ball from Dwayne Bravo and fractured his left forearm. The X-rays showed numerous splinters, but "he wanted to put the arm in a cast and get on the plane to India for the World T20", Ziehl said. "He was even willing to sign an indemnity form. In the end we had to make a call based on his health, because the medical advice was that one of the shards of bone could have got into his nervous system or his blood stream."
Such determination has not been been evident in Zimbabwe's cricket of late. As a team they often deserve sympathy for the conditions they are expected to operate in, but at the same time there is also the feeling that they are all too happy to fall back on those excuses - at least in their own minds - when things invariably get tough in the middle.
The irony is that while he saves Zimbabwe from humiliation, Cremer often leaves the batsmen that preceded him red in the face
Since taking over as captain in June, Cremer has shown - through actions rather than words - that he is not one to utilise the get-out clause. As a result he has often been the difference between heavy defeat and abject humiliation.
Cremer began his first Test as captain - against New Zealand in July - having not played the format in over three years. He could have easily hidden himself but he bowled 53 out of 166.5 overs and contributed 33 runs as well, occupying the crease for three hours and helping Sean Williams drag Zimbabwe up from 17 for 4 in the second innings.
In Harare against Sri Lanka, Cremer had bowled 42 overs, most of them during the toughest phases of the innings, for four hard-earned wickets. Then, when Zimbabwe were 139 for 6, trailing by 398 runs with only four wickets in hand, Cremer responded with an innings few thought possible of a batsman averaging 10.75 in Test cricket.
It began innocently enough, with him holding an end up as Peter Moor counterattacked, hitting two clean sixes down the ground. "I think we bat quite well together because he plays some big shots and keeps the scoreboard ticking, and I know that I can block out a maiden if I need to and just get off strike," Cremer said.
The irony is that while he saves Zimbabwe from humiliation, Cremer often leaves the batsmen that preceded him red in the face. There's nothing flash about a player who often batted last in his school teams - he has an elegant forward push that brought seven of his 10 fours through cover, but otherwise he remains compact, picks up the length well and, crucially, doesn't do anything stupid.
By the evening, Moor had fallen for 79 but Cremer was still there, pinching singles with the tail to get a maiden Test century, before celebrating in a manner that suggested he was also pinching himself. "It's very special - I hadn't got fifty before in Test cricket and I don't even have a five-for yet," he said. "When I got to 75, I started thinking, 'There's a chance here.' Then I thought I might run out of partners. It was an awesome feeling to get that one run to get to a hundred."
Cremer's influence appears to be rubbing off on some of the newer members of his side, notably Moor and seamer Donald Tiripano. Moor's attitude has been evident since the ODI series against India in June. When a journalist commiserated with him over a marginal lbw decision, he brushed the comment off and instead took responsibility for his actions. "I should have hit it," he said.
That no-excuses approach has been drilled into Zimbabwe since Heath Streak, who also scored his Test century as a No. 8 and captain, was appointed as head coach.
"We spoke about that as soon as Streaky came in," said Cremer. "We can carry on whining about things that happen to us and we just keep going backwards, or we try and turn it around and be a lot more positive as a unit, and show what we can do out there. Whatever happens then is out of our control. There's a good positive attitude in the changing room and it's good to see for a change."
The Zimbabwe side that Streak was a part of was widely respected not because they won very match, but for an attitude that helped them punch above their weight. When Hamilton Masakadza was axed as captain earlier this year, with Zimbabwe at a particularly low ebb, one wondered what kind of leader might serve them best, especially given few available options. By embodying the sort of grit that has so often been lacking, Cremer has answered the question in his own quiet style - and notched an unlikely Test hundred while he was at it.