Another loss to Zim cricket

HARARE - How many more times will we read headlines such as Zimbabwe’s loss, another country’s gain?

Scores of talented young players have happily left the country to settle in countries such as England, Australia, South Africa and New Zealand.

Throughout the years, fans have been left devastated when reading the County Championship results and names such as Sean Ervine, Gary Ballance, Kyle Jarvis and Brendan Taylor leap out at you on a regular basis, leaving you fuming with frustration, which gradually leaves you dejected and miserable, knowing that despite certain people’s best efforts to get some of the players back, it will never happen.

Another name added to the growing list is 30-year-old Colin de Grandhomme, who plies his trade for the Auckland Aces in New Zealand, and has done so for the last 10 years.

De Grandhomme was part of the successful Zimbabwe Under-19 team, who shook the cricketing world to its very foundations when they famously beat Australia back in 2004.

It was a team with massive potential and yet, a number of the players now find themselves playing and living in countries around the world, and making a success of themselves.

Described as a bruising broad-shouldered right-handed batsman and a disciplined median-pace bowler, you naturally get the impression that de Grandhomme’s temperament would match his physique and playing style, but this is most certainly not the case.

Bruising with the bat he may be, and broad shoulders he may have, but it is hard to remember speaking to any person as shy and reserved as Colin de Grandhomme.

My first experience with Colin was at his parents’ house when we witnessed the eclipse in 2001.

Colin shyly held out a cheese platter towards me, but didn’t say a word, which was no use to me as I continued to stare ahead into space with my usual smile fixed to my face.

Colin’s father Lawrence, a former left arm spinner who played for the country from 1979 to 1989 told me that: “The young man you just spoke to is set for a big future and will hopefully do Zimbabwe proud in a few years time”.

Little did we know that the storm clouds of destruction were already beginning to brew, with people making very real threats to burn the pitch and cause havoc if players of colour weren’t introduced into the system with immediate effect.

My first “glance” of de Grandhomme in action, if you’ll excuse the pun was at Alexander Sports Club on a hot November Sunday afternoon in 2001 when my father and I watched the home side play Old Hararians.

The 15-year-old Colin came on as first change bowler, and we were immediately impressed with the natural swing and seam he got when bowling.

After the match, Gary du Plessis who opened the bowling for Alex was barely able to contain his excitement, as he told me that the players were having a bet as to how long it would be before young Colin would be playing for Zimbabwe A and eventually the national team.

But as de Grandhomme began to find his feat, so the pressure of quota players increased, and although he represented Zimbabwe in the 2004 U19 World Cup, you felt that the inevitable would happen and that Zimbabwe would lose yet another player.

This fear became reality when a talent scout approached de Grandhomme after the World Cup, and as soon as he completed his A-Levels, Colin made the decision to leave his country of birth and move to New Zealand, where his talent would be nurtured and developed.

The irony is that he made his debut for New Zealand against the country of his birth in 2011/12 when Zimbabwe toured New Zealand, and although he didn’t contribute much with the bat, the ability to score runs and break partnerships was clear to see.

His international career was then put on hold when he ran into a rampant South African team which then sadly saw him lose form and consistency.

But four years later, the 30-year-old is back and made his entry into the Test arena in fine style as he recorded the best bowling figures by a New Zealand bowler on Test debut when he took 6 for 41 against Pakistan yesterday.

“I watched every ball of the day’s play,” his father Lawrence said, and was unable to hide the smile in his voice which only a father exudes when his offspring has done him proud.

So how do Zimbabwe Cricket (ZC) feel when yet another home grown product has made it in a foreign country?

Do they feel any regret or even remorse at the chaotic way they went about their business from 2004 onwards?

Very soon we will also hear the names of Sam and Tom Curran playing for England, and while there is undoubtedly a great crop of young players coming through the system back home, how much will ZC do to ensure that the likes of Carl Mumba, Tarisai Musakanda and PJ Moor but to name a few aren’t lured away to greener pastures and happier hunting grounds?

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