FORMER Zimbabwe cricket captain Alistair Campbell says Zimbabwe will not develop Twenty20 cricket properly without the involvement of former players.
The comments by Campbell, who is among a cast of former international cricketers and acclaimed television commentators working on the Indian Premier League in South Africa, comes in the wake of the apparent influence that experienced and retired internationals are having on the upcoming players in the eight IPL franchises.
All the teams in the IPL have in their sides leading international cricketers, some of them retired, leading the way.
An array of young, talented Indian players have in turn provided their natural flair and flourished under the guidance of these top internationals.
And Campbell, who played 60 Tests and 188 ODIs for his country, at 36 could still play a part if his proposal sees the light of day (Shane Warne and Sanath Jayasuriya are playing in the IPL at 39). Campbell says former Zimbabwe internationals still living in the country could be roped in to bolster provincial sides in Zimbabweâ€™s domestic Twenty20 competition.
Â â€œThe concept can be taken from the IPL in terms of organisation and format, not in terms of the money, of course,â€ Campbell says.
â€œWe still have a lot of former players playing social cricket back in Zim. Guys like Craig Wishart, Trevor Gripper and Andy Blignautâ€¦ I think he is still around. Streaky (Heath Steak) is also in Zim quite a lot these days. I think Iâ€™ve seen Barney Rogers around as well. The coaches are there â€” Kevin Curran is around, so is and Andy Waller.â€
Campbell proposed a two-week tournament in which the former internationals can be put in the different sides, preferably their old first-class provinces.
â€œBusinesses can then buy a side,â€ he says. â€œWhen I say buy a side I donâ€™t mean buy a side for US$100 000 or something like that. Just enough, a little to pay these guys for their contribution. The other guys, the younger guys, can then be obliged to play as part of heir contracts.
â€œI think the board could spare a small amount for that. We will not be going to the ICC Twenty20 in England but we are going to get the money for that.Â Just a small fraction from that will go a long way.â€
Zimbabwe Cricket has to date hosted three inter-provincial Twenty20 tournaments. The inaugural tournament in Mutare in 2007 did generate a fair amount of interest in the city, but not enough to capture the imagination of the whole country.
Westerns won this yearâ€™s edition in Bulawayo after beating Northerns by four runs.
â€œWe definitely need to catch up with the times back home,â€ Campbell says. â€œZC need to create awareness of T20. They need to make a big thing of it. In order to make it a success you have to make it a spectacle. Get it on ZBC or something like that, get everyone excited.â€
Campbell says he has been pleasantly surprised by the response to the IPL in South Africa, which he says is a good advertisement for the shortest version of the game.
â€œItâ€™s been good hey,â€ he says. â€œWhen I came down here I wasnâ€™t sure if there were going to be good crowds.Â For Twenty20 to be successful there has to be spectators. The first game I attended in Port Elizabeth it rained and I said to myself â€˜we are never going to see people hereâ€™. There were 10 000 people in the ground for the next PE game! Itâ€™s been a major success. You just need to look at the crowds, the live music, the dancing girls.
â€œHalf of the people who come donâ€™t even know anything about cricket. They come for the fun. Twent20 is a spectacle. That is where sports meet entertainment.
â€œItâ€™s shorter and suits the working man. It lasts just three hours. A lot of people donâ€™t have the whole day to come to cricket. For Twenty20 you can bring the kids for a 1630 game, go back home and have them ready for school the next day.â€
Turning to the 2009 IPL series, Campbell says he fancies the two form teams, the Chennai Super Kings and the Delhi Daredevils, to go all the way to the final at Wanderers Stadium on Sunday.
Â â€œChennai and Delhi have the best personnel and they are playing the best cricket. Anything can happen in this form of the game, but on current form these two are my pick.â€
Commenting on the success of the â€œgrandfathersâ€ of the tournament, with the leading run-scorer of the series being retired Australian batsman Matthew Hayden, Campbell says:
â€œFor me itâ€™s two things. There is no pressure on these guys to perform at the international level. There is no huge expectation on them to perform.
â€œSecondly it has a lot to do with experience. Thereâ€™ve been there, done that.Â Different levels of experience will always show in cricket.â€
While Campbell â€™s comments on involving former Zimbabwe internationals were confined to Twenty20, they could also be interpreted in a broader context.Â An ICC task force to Zimbabwe last November urged ZC to reintegrate former players into its system to pass on their expertise as was the case in the past.
BY ENOCK MUCHINJO IN PRETORIA