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Stuart Carlisle in India

Zimbabwe's Captain Cool, the unassuming Stuart Carlisle, comes across as being an open and candid individual who learns with every match that he plays and knows that cricket is the teacher in his life

Trishna Bose
Zimbabwe's Captain Cool, the unassuming Stuart Carlisle, comes across as being an open and candid individual who learns with every match that he plays and knows that cricket is the teacher in his life.
Captaincy came upon him all of a sudden, as he was asked to lead the side when Brian Murphy was headed homewards. At a time when the question of captaincy was more like a joke - "So who is the captain this time around?" - Stuart Carlisle made a bold decision and took the reins of his team in his hands. Self-set goals had to be readjusted, and new avenues opened. But the journey had to continue, and the man has walked well.
In a free-wheeling conversation he reveals his thoughts on the team, on the future, on captaincy and a lot more. So get that cup of coffee, sit back and let this captain take you through the thoughts in his mind.
Trishna Bose: Stuart. thanks for your time. First tell me about the Indian experience. How has it been for you?
Stuart Carlisle: It has been very good. There are lots of pros and cons but obviously when you lose a Test series 2-0 it is not so nice. I thought that in the Second Test the guys fought very well and I also thought that we should have won that Tes. There is no doubt in my mind that we should have won it. There were a couple of instances that went against us that I would rather not talk about. It is a bit sad that we tried so hard and the fact is that we could not finish it off, but it was a good Test.
In the First Test we definitely lacked runs in the first innings, and in Test cricket you can always say that you were 30 to 40 runs short, or your tail should have added on, or the top order should have got a certain amount of run. There are lots of excuses, but at the end of the day this has been a good experience and a couple of young guys have done well.
TB: This is your third series as captain. How has captaincy suited you?
SC: I think that it was a big decision and I took a while to decide on [accepting] the captaincy . Eventually in Bangladesh when Brian Murphy got sent home I decided to take it on and I was not sure if I was going to be on; in fact I am still not sure if I am going to be on permanently. So I have decided to go tour by tour and do my best that I can. I have enjoyed the challenge and the team meetings and being part of the management team and in a sense preparing strategies. You learn a lot even by just talking to media and dealing with the press. You mature a lot over the years.
TB: Captaining in the tests and in the one-dayers must be two totally different challenges?
SC: Test cricket is slightly easier than one-dayers. It is slower and therefore you can readjust ever so often. But one-day cricket is a lot more tense and you have to make quick decisions and there is a lot more pressure. Trying to open the batting in Tests and captaining the side I find rather tough and immensely draining, but I have to get on and lead from the front because it can work for you and against you. All in all it is a big challenge.
But I would not say that captaincy is easy at all. It is pretty difficult and there is a lot of stress because you have to deal with individual players. There are always different characters. You have guys that are behind you sometimes and others who have problems, and you have to deal with them. You are always involved and never seem to rest. There are pros and cons all the time - right?!
TB: With ex-captains in the side and senior players too, one notices that you consulted Andy Flower and Heath Streak on more that one occasion.
SC: I think you should communicate with the seniors all the time and especially with the bowlers. I don't think you should be stubborn as a captain and I don't think you should make all the decisions. You have to work with the team and that would help. In captaincy there are two or three theories - but you have to decide to go with one theory; that is why you are captain of the side. It is a learning curve for me at the moment and I have already learnt so much on the field settings and just from thoughts from the other guys.
TB: One department that the Zimbabweans scored over the Indians was that of fielding. In the other department there is room for improvement; would you agree?
SC: The fielding was much approved, definitely. We are getting the energy levels up and the urgency on the field too. The boys are encouraging each other on the field, and they are getting more and more confident. We fielded really well this series so I am happy with that.
At Test level what we need to work on is our top six batsmen. They need to get one or two hundreds going and we have to get big scores. We have to be more ruthless and more positive. What happens sometimes is that we get negative and tire ourselves down a bit, so we have to learn to keep the ball rolling and keep the pace throughout the entire innings. The tail has been relatively good, so no complaints there.
In the bowling, Travis Friend in particular did not bowl to his potential, as he has bowled a lot better before. Brighton Watambwa is a good prospect for the future; this was his first tour to India and I think he learnt very quickly how to bowl on these pitches. It is tough for a seamer to get the right length on these pitches. But Heath Streak I think did a fantastic job again; he has really carried this team for a long time now. It is good that Friend and Brighton have learnt to bowl on these pitches, and they should be able to take more responsibility and bowl a few more overs, and take the pressure of Heath a bit. Consistency then is the answer in both the bowling and the batting.
TB: Colour suddenly seems to be a big issue in Zimbabwean cricket. The goal is to get more coloured cricketers involved. How do you view this?
SC: The future, we are all aware, relies on the young black kids coming through. We have known that for a long time and we have had development programmes. In the last eight to ten years we have had at least ten international black players. But what the public don't understand is that in Test cricket and one-day cricket - but Test cricket specifically - it takes a long time to get to the top. It has taken Andy Flower 14 years to get to number one in the world. It is probably unlike other sports where it takes three to four years to get to the top.
This is a sport where you never stop learning or growing. I know that is true for most sports, but cricket in particular is very technical and experience is a massive thing in cricket. I won't say anything further, as I am not supposed to say more. But there is not one senior guy in the side who has not tried to help any young player, whether white, Indian or black, and colour has never been a big issue in our teams in the past. But now I feel it is certainly being used as a weapon by certain individuals. But I rather not comment any more on this.
Has this affected relations within the team at all? How united in the Zimbabwean team?
SC: We all get along very well, but we go through transitional phases and our team is changing very rapidly, too quickly. One understands the need for change, but they have to be careful what they do, because they could scare away a lot of players and Zimbabwe cannot afford that. It is as simple as that. The camaraderie in the team in the past couple of years has been tremendous. All players get along regardless of colour, creed or whatever; this has never been a problem.
With World Cup 2003 less than a year away, has Zimbabwe started rebuilding the team towards that goal?
SC: The biggest thing for us before the World Cup is for our country to get sorted out, so that all our families back home are more relaxed, and we will not be required to talk about politics. The other thing is that I would like to see a lot more of the experienced players involved in the one-day set-up because the World Cup will be a very massive occasion and it is very demanding and pressurizing event. I think we lack a bit in experience at the moment but it would be fantastic to see some of the younger players come through. So I would like to see more experienced players in the World Cup squad and with Geoff Marsh our coach working on them. We need more all-rounders, for that is the way one-day cricket is going. It is vital that we have a combination of these factors and I am certain we can make it to the top six again in World Cup 2003.
Finally Stuart, how much have you changed as a person with all the experiences that you have had over the past few months?
SC: I am very fortunate, I have a degree in marketing and I went to university for four or five years, and I think that broadened my mind totally as marketing is what makes the world go around. So that has helped with my job, dealing with press and media. Just being able to talk naturally, for talking can be a nerve-racking experience for most individuals (smiles). All this talking and interviewing, etc., is making me become a better person who can talk more freely.
Captaincy certainly matures you and before I became captain one of my goals was to better my batting averages, both in Tests and one-dayers and get them into the mid-thirties. I did not know that I would get captaincy so soon; I thought it would eventually happen, but it all happened so suddenly, and then I decided to do the best I can as a captain. I have reset my goals and now they are even higher. I just have to see that I do not crack under pressure and that I move in the right direction.
Stuart Carlisle is moving all right, and for the moment he is heading in the right direction. With an uncertain future and fledgling dreams, being positive is the next best thing.