JOHN Traicos was a world-class spin bowler when Zimbabwe were awarded Test status in 1992. Traicos was a fit and committed cricketer who turned out for Zimbabwe at the highest level until he w
as well into his 40s.
It is an acceptable model in Test cricket circles that a team should possess at least one strike spinner who can do the job as effectively as the seamers.
No wonder South Africa always mourn their lack of top spin bowlers in years of international cricket. This is one aspect of cricket where, admittedly, the Zimbabweans have had one over their southern foe.
Spin bowler Nicky Boje, who needs to bat well to be in the South African team, took a five-wicket haul against England earlier this year, becoming the only South African to do so on home soil in more than 50 years.
After Traicos, Zimbabwe had other spinners, though largely part-timers, in the periods close to Traicos’s days. These included the likes of batsman Andy Pycroft and Kevin Duers, among others.
Later on, from a new generation, Adam Huckle rose as Zimbabwe’s first-choice spinner. Huckle strengthened his position against New Zealand in 1997, taking a career-best 6 for 109, becoming the first Zimbabwean to take 10 wickets in a single Test match.
Paul Strang was the other Zimbabwean spin bowler of note, following Huckle’s route. Also a superb cover fielder, Strang was reliable as Zimbabwe’s first choice, and his best figure of 8 for 109 against the New Zealanders was the best international bowling figure for the 2000/01 season.
After Strang, Zimbabwe had no spinner of note for some time, until Ray Price emerged onto the scene three seasons ago. He quickly became a top-notch wicket taker, taking 33 wickets at an average of 22,42 in the 2003/4 season. But Price did not fully realise his international potential as he is now out of Zimbabwe cricket.
The question is: can Zimbabwe continue to groom top spin bowlers after this proud tradition of quality slow, flight and turn bowling?
Cricket traditions take a real beating to finally die down, and Zimbabwe should continue to churn out good spinners.
Since Price, Prosper Utseya has been the next best man and, for his age and experience, he has shown great vision. Of course he still has a lot to learn. With time, he will be a dependable off-spinner for Zimbabwe.
Graeme Cremer is the other spinner coming up, while there are others who can bowl well as part-timers. One of these, and hopefully more, will emerge as the next world-class spinner bowler for Zimbabwe.