Andy Waller, born September 25, 1959, was an aggressive batsman for Zimbabwe who played a few good knocks in One-Day Internationals. He made his Test debut at the ripe age of 37 in 1996. Nishad Pai Vaidya looks back at the cricketing career of Zimbabwe’s current coach.
Better late than never they say, and there are players who would vouch for that. At some point, some may have felt that Andy Waller would never don the white flannels for Zimbabwe, but at the age of 37, he was handed the coveted Test cap when Zimbabwe played England in the famous drawn Test at Bulawayo in 1996. Mainly stereotyped as a one-day player, Waller’s debut was long awaited and a few months after that landmark, his international career came to a close.
Born in Harare on September 25, 1959, Waller first played for the Zimbabwe Country Districts against the Young West Indians in 1981. That West Indian side featured the likes of Desmond Haynes, Faoud Bacchus and Gus Logie. In February 1985, he made his First-Class debut for Zimbabwe against the touring English Counties XI led by Mark Nicholas. Waller celebrated the occasion by scoring an unbeaten 60 in the first innings. He made his One-Day International (ODI) debut during the 1987 World Cup in the game against New Zealand at Hyderabad. That match is remembered for Dave Houghton’s brave 142 that nearly took Zimbabwe to an unlikely victory.
Waller had an average 1987 World Cup and only picked up form in the last two games with scores of 39 and 38 against India and Australia respectively. After that tournament, he continued to play for Zimbabwe in their numerous contests. In 1989, he nearly got his maiden First-Class ton when he was dismissed for 99 against the touring Lancashire side. That however, helped Zimbabwe lay a platform for a victory.
In 1992, Waller made a name for himself with a breathtaking knock for Zimbabwe in their game against Sri Lanka at the World Cup. As Andy Flower held the innings with 115 at New Plymouth, Waller simply bludgeoned the Sri Lanka bowling. In 45 balls, he smashed nine fours and three sixes to move his way along to an unbeaten 83. That took Zimbabwe to 312. In those days, that was a mammoth target and Waller’s knock was way ahead of its time. It certainly was T20-like! Unfortunately, Zimbabwe lost that game in a tight finish due to a team effort by the Sri Lankan batsmen.
It was that aggressive streak that made Waller a useful option in one-dayers. A year down the line, he smashed his next ODI fifty when Zimbabwe played Sri Lanka in a Hero Cup game at Patna. During Zimbabwe’s chase of 264, Waller hit 55 off 46 balls with seven fours and a six. Again, that wasn’t enough to help Zimbabwe win. Then in the 1996 World Cup, he hit 67 while opening the batting against Australia at Nagpur. This time, he had to play a sedate role with wickets falling at the other end.
Later that year, Waller made his Test debut against England at Bulawayo. A month before his Test debut, he smashed his maiden First-Class hundred while playing for Mashonaland against Matabeleland.
That Bulawayo Test is famous for the England pursuit, where they only managed to level the scores with the hosts. The match was drawn with the scores level. In his first innings in Test cricket, Waller scored only 15. However, as Zimbabwe were trying to make a game out of the contest, he responded with a responsible knock of 50. Waller played the second Test of the series as well and got only one hit in the middle, scoring four. This was his last First-Class match.
On the one-day front, he toured South Africa in early 1997 for the tri-series involving the hosts and India. Opening the batting, he scored 52 against South Africa in one of the games, which turned out to be his last international fifty. That series was his last and he finished his international career with 39 ODIs and two Tests.
Waller is now pursuing coaching and is currently at the helm for Zimbabwe. Coaching seems to have come out of necessity, but he has risen through the ranks. Because he lost his farm, he took it up as an option. He told ESPNcricinfo, “Things changed in the country, and in 2002, we lost the farm, so I decided to go into cricket coaching. It was something I was always interested in and I wanted to get involved.”
Today, he is responsible for taking the Zimbabwean team forward and has taken the right strides by beating Pakistan in a Test match at home. Not only is he grooming the side, but his son, Malcolm, is also under his tutelage as one of the promising batsmen in Zimbabwe.