Alistair Campbell

I remember watching a match in the 1998 tri-series in India that also involved Australia and Zimbabwe. In that tournament, there was a match between Zimbabwe and Australia where I was seeing a strange thing for the first time – a batsman unwilling to take easy singles. Back then, I was just a 14-year-old and thought that the game should only be played by the book  – you should get as many runs as you can. Soon enough, after listening to the commentators I understood the reason behind that strange sacrifice – the batsman wanted to protect the number 10 or 11 batsman at the other end and wanted to stay at the crease and finish the match by himself. He was not afraid of the bowling of the world’s best team at that stage. I was really awed by the guts and gumption of the man whom the world knew as Alistair Campbell.

After all, it cannot be said with certainty that he was the best batsman Zimbabwe ever produced. He averages only 27.21 with a total of 2858 runs playing mainly as an opening batsman in 60 tests in an 11-year career that spanned from Zimbabwe’s first test in 1992 to 2003. His test career contained only a couple of centuries. However, in a team that is traditionally regarded as the wooden spoon boys of international cricket his composure and confidence at the top were remarkable.

However, Alistair Campbell’s main contribution lay in his aggressive and confident captaincy. He was the brains behind their success against India in the 1998 test match at Harare where they employed 4 seamers on a green top to defeat the much vaunted Asian team and win their first test series ever. After that, it was under his leadership that the team performed stupendously well in Pakistan to win its first test series overseas. Both these successes played a major role in Zimbabwe’s remarkable run in the 1999 World Cup where they missed out on the semis by a whisker.

The standard of his leadership could be understood from the fact that before the 1999 World Cup, Ian Botham had predicted that Zimbabwe were one of the contenders for the championship. In many ways, he instilled the confidence necessary in the team to stop thinking of themselves as no hopers and not ask for or give any quarter in a match.