Graeme Cremer, Zimbabwe’s top attacking leg-spin bowler, is back in action again after another period of several months out of the game due to his troublesome knee. He played his first Logan Cup match of the season this past week, and took seven wickets, including five for 64 in the second innings. He spun and flighted the ball in fine form, although it must be admitted the batting opposing him was quite feeble.
“I’ve been happy with the way I have started, especially after coming back and not having bowled much for more than two months,” Graeme says. “The wicket got harder to bat on and [the ball] started spinning a bit more [in the second innings]. We built pressure from both ends, I thought, and I was lucky enough to get five.”
Which wicket gave Graeme the most pleasure? “Probably Prosper [Utseya],” he replies. “It looked like he was going to stick around for a while and drag the game on a bit, so it was nice to get him out. He was looking to play the ball through the off side, so I was trying to bowl further down leg so he would play across [the line] a bit into the leg side, and he did, and got a leading edge to extra [cover].”
Graeme’s long-standing knee problems have become quite well known. “I had a knee op about a year and a half ago,” he says, “and I was out for about seven or eight months with a big operation. It started getting better, but then it just got worse. Maybe I came back a bit too early and my knee wasn’t strong enough to handle all the cricket we were playing at that time.
“So I went in again and had another op. I did a lot of rehab in the last two months to get it strong enough to play again. I think it is strong enough now; I feel comfortable, a bit of pain, but hopefully that is nothing serious.” Hopefully it will see him through the tour of West Indies without any problems. “Hopefully! I would like it to get even stronger leading up to that tour, and hopefully get a lot of overs in and be ready for that.”
Graeme made his debut for Zimbabwe back in 2004/05 at the age of 18, at the time of the player rebellion. He was obviously very raw then, so how has his bowling developed since that time? “I think it’s more experience,” he says. “I know now what I am doing wrong if I am not bowling well; I don’t really need a coach there to tell me.”
And any new varieties in his bowling? “Not really. I think I have just become smarter in reading the batsman and working batsmen out, and that obviously comes from experience. My leg-spin is coming out fine, I think, and that has always taken lots of wickets for me. My googly has always been a big wicket-taker for me.”
No sliders or zooters or any other modern variation? “I do bowl a slider, but it’s quite hard on these pitches, because the ball doesn’t skid as much. It would be more effective on grassier wickets, maybe.” Is there any particular ground anywhere that he feels is ideal for his bowling? “Definitely in India. Asia is always a place where the ball skids as well as it turns. It’s always nice to go and bowl there, but when you do bowl there you are bowling at good players who have handled spin all their lives.”
He found runs painfully difficult to get in those days, especially at international level, where he had a batting average of below three then. But his batting has steadily improved, and he is now virtually an all-rounder, batting at number six for Mid-West Rhinos and often making consistent scores.
“I think it has [improved] a lot. There are coaches around like Grant [Flower] have helped me, and also that experience of what to do in certain situations. I think I am batting well enough and the time will come when I will score big runs.” His most productive stroke, he thinks, is probably the cut. “All round I think I have developed quite a bit.”
Does Graeme have any specific personal ambitions or targets? “In the short term I would like to go to West Indies and play all three forms of the game. Those wickets have helped me before and I have done well there before, so I will go there confident and hopefully have a good series and a good year.”
What about 100 Test wickets? “Yes, I would like to get as many as I can. I don’t really set myself targets like 100 wickets or anything like that. I think if I am bowling at my best those things will take care of themselves. I just make sure my game is in check before each series and each game.”
Despite his injury, Graeme was included in the squad to tour West Indies next month, and after a good start on his return he is very likely to be chosen – for the Test matches, at least. In the one-day matches Zimbabwe have two very good containing spin bowlers in Raymond Price and Prosper Utseya, and with a good line-up of pacemen nowadays will probably not be looking to play a third, unless the wicket and conditions are favourable for spin. But when it comes to bowling attacking spin, Graeme has no equal, and we wish him success and continued fitness.