BARELY 10 months after making a comeback into cricket, leg-spinner Graeme Cremer, who recently stormed into the top five on the ICC T20 bowling rankings, is hoping to lead Zimbabwe to the semifinal stage of next month’s T20 World Cup in India.
Cremer, appointed vice-captain to Hamilton Masakadza in the Zimbabwe cricket team earlier this month, quit the national team back in 2013 following an impasse with Zimbabwe Cricket (ZC) over unpaid dues and started pursuing a golf career.
He only returned in April last year ahead of Zimbabwe’s contentious tour to a volatile subcontinent nation, Pakistan, having last featured for Zimbabwe in a test match against Bangladesh in April 2013.
Standardsport spoke to the bowler during the T20 World Cup team send-off dinner at Harare Sports Club VIP Lounge on Thursday night – the eve of the team’s departure for India.
“The selectors have chosen the best players. The best part is that we have some in-form players in Malcom Waller and Masakadza, Vusi Sibanda and myself. Obviously, we are looking to easily progress from the qualifying round and look for a couple of upsets in the group stages and hopefully get to that semifinals which I think we have a team capable of achieving, because 20/20 matches can go either way,” said the player, who began his cricket in Eiffel Flats, Kadoma.
Zimbabwe, who are in Group B alongside bogey side Afghanistan, Scotland and Hong Kong in the qualifying round, play their first match against Hong Kong on March 8 at the Vidarbha Cricket Association Stadium in Nagpur.
Only the top team in this group will progress to the Super 10 stage and compete in Group 1 where there is England, Sri Lanka, South Africa and West Indies, with only the top two teams progressing to the semifinals.
ZC recently added Sri Lanka and South Africa greats Marvan Atapattu and Makhaya Ntini to the technical department headed by the experienced Dav Whatmore.
“Even though we haven’t had them for long, they have brought a lot of great ideas to the team. Makhaya has brought to the team some new energy, tactics we never thought about and obviously their experience is second to none. And it gives us confidence,” Cremer said of the new members of the technical department.
Cremer said his personal target is to help Zimbabwe win games at the World Cup.
“My target is to help my team win games and for me, I like to lead the bowling unit, contribute where I can with the bat but I would really like to take wickets at crucial positions and put the team into match-winning positions,” he said.
The Midwest Rhinos leg-spinner is of the view that the 18 month break away from cricket transformed him into a better player than he has ever been.
“I really needed that time out and right now, I enjoy the game better than ever before. Things have really moved quite quickly since I came back into cricket. All I wanted was to re-establish myself as the best bowler in Zimbabwe and already, I am among the best in the world,” said the 29-year-old player who has snared 32 wickets in 24 T20 matches.
Zimbabwe looks quite strong on paper, with Tendai Chatara back in the fold following a long layoff due to an injury and is set to form a strong seam attack with Tinashe Panyangara and impressive young attacker Luke Jongwe.
The spin department appears attractive as well, with Cremer, Tendai Chisoro, Sean Williams and Wellington Masakadza set to give Whatmore selection headaches. Overnight T20 specialist star batsman Malcom Waller will be looking to continue with his free run scoring exploits, alongside in-form captain Masakadza, Sibanda and Peter John Moor.
Former captain Elton Chigumbura – fresh from the Pakistan Premier League – as well as Sean Williams, Sikandar Raza Butt and wicketkeeper Richmond Mutumbami, are all capable of putting together match-winning knocks.