Alistair Campbell: 19 facts about the man who led Zimbabwe to its first Test series victory

Alistair Douglas Ross Campbell, is a former Zimbabwean cricketer, who as a captain played a key role in shaping the side into a competitive unit.

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Born September 23, 1972, Alistair Douglas Ross Campbell, is a former Zimbabwean cricketer, who as a captain played a key role in shaping the side into a competitive unit. On his birthday, Suvajit Mustafi looks at 17 facts about the elegant Zimbabwean cricketer.

1.  Cricket loving family

Born in Harare, then Salisbury, it was natural that Campbell took to cricket. His father Iain is a renowned junior cricket coach, who has also played a big role in nurturing future star Brendan Taylor. Alistair, along with his younger brother Donald started playing the game from a young age. Donald, a wicketkeeper, too played First-Class cricket.

2.  Right-hander to an elegant left-handed batsman

Initially, Alistair was a right-hander and it was Iain who got him to bat left-handed. His belief was if one is a natural right-hander then the right hand is strong and that should be at the top of the bat. Thanks to Iain, his son went on to be a stylish lefty batsman.

3.  Went to a school run by his family

Campbell went to Lilfordia Primary School, a school run by his family. Years down the line, cricketers — Malcolm Waller and Taylor also became the students from this school to play at the highest level.

4.  First-Class debut

Campbell made his First-Class debut at Harare in October 1990, at the age of 18. Playing against Pakistan B, Campbell scored 29 in both the innings.

5.  Youngest Zimbabwean to score a First-Class hundred

In April 1991, the 18-year-old Campbell belted an unbeaten 100, against the touring Glamorgan side at Bulawayo. At that time, he was the youngest to score a ton from Zimbabwe in First-Class cricket. In the next innings, he scored a fine 63, to help his side win the contest.

6.  Inauspicious 1992 World Cup

Zimbabwe expected a lot from the youngster and drafted him in their 1992 World Cup squad, only to find the 19-year-old struggling against the quality bowling in international cricket. All he managed was 13 runs in his first three innings.

7.  Test debut

Campbell’s big moment came in October 1992, when aged 20, he became a Test cricketer. The opponents were the touring Indians and coming in at No 3, he struck a fine 45 in his maiden innings. In the second innings, he was cleaned-up by Kapil Dev for a naught off the first ball. The Test ended in a draw.

8.  Thriving against the Wasims and Waqars

Pakistan’s bowling attack in the 90s instilled fear in the minds of the best. In Zimbabwe’s 1993-94 tour of Pakistan, Campbell ended up as the series highest run-getter, scoring three fifties from his five innings. He scored 205 runs at 41, and tackled the likes of Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis and Mushtaq Ahmed quite deftly.

9.  Captaincy

Campbell was appointed the Zimbabwean skipper in 1996, and he led the side for a good three years, till November 1999. He stepped down then due to personal reasons.

10.  Zimbabwe’s first Test series win

In October 1998, Campbell led Zimbabwe to a one-off Test win against a strong touring Indian side. The following month, he led the side to a 1-0 series win in Pakistan. It was Zimbabwe’s first ever Test series win.

11.  World Cup 1999

Zimbabwe continued their honeymoon run under Campbell. In the World Cup 1999 in England, Zimbabwe, who were still considered as a ‘minnow’ managed to reach the Super Six stage. They beat teams like India and South Africa in the competition.

12.  Finally the Test ton

Campbell was destined to reach great heights as a batsman but he didn’t and a Test career average of 27.21 doesn’t reflect his abilities. In 1994, against Sri Lanka at Harare, Campbell was dismissed for 99. He had to wait for another six years for his maiden Test ton. It finally came in 2000, against India, at Nagpur. Facing a possibility of innings defeat at 61 for 3, Campbell along with Andy Flower helped Zimbabwe to a draw. While Flower got 232 not out, Campbell scored 102.

13.  Running Liforida

Post retirement from the game, Campbell did take up part-time commentary assignments but was mainly involved in the running of family school, Lilfordia, along with his father Iain.

14.  Turning down a coaching role in 2007

Ahead of the World Cup 2007, Campbell turned down an offer to travel with the Zimbabwean team as a part-time coach to the Caribbean.

15.  National selector  

Campbell was appointed a chairman of selectors in 2009 and he picked Zimbabwe’s first team on their return to Test cricket in 2011.

16.  Racism

Due to racism issues, Campbell has found himself in controversies. His remarks on inclusion of a few black players didn’t go well with the Zimbabwean board, which punished him. In 2001, he was quoted as saying, “The race thing has spilled onto the field, and there hasn’t been the same commitment. The team are being torn apart. If race becomes an issue it makes things unpleasant for everybody. People want to see the best team representing their country.” He spent a while outside the team.

In July 2015, former Zimbabwean captain Prosper Utseya laid racism allegations against Campbell, who is the Managing Director of Zimbabwean Cricket.

17.  MD of Zimbabwean Cricket

In January 2015, Campbell was appointed as the Managing Director of Zimbabwean Cricket. He played a key role in revival of cricket in Pakistan when Zimbabwe toured Pakistan in 2015, and it marked international cricket’s return to the country after six long years.

18. Controversy and resignation

Former captain Utseya controversially wrote to Zimbabwe Cricket that Campbell’s racial bas played a role in his non-selection at the 2015 World Cup. He also accused Campbell of giving coaching roles to white players such as Grant Flower and Heath Streak. In wake of this controversy, Campbell’s position as the MD was changed to director of commercial affairs, international and franchise cricket. In further restructuring, his administration powers were further reduced and chairman Tavengwa Mukuhlani replaced him.

In October 2015, Campbell had it enough and resigned from his position in ZC.

19. Backing Afghanistan

Zimbabwe Cricket ordered nine of its cricketers playing in a Twenty20 league in Afghanistan to return home following a suicide bombing outside the Kabul International Cricket Ground while a game was going on. However, Campbell, a commentator of the league, came in support of the Afghan administration.

“I don’t feel that I am in any danger… I stand in solidarity not only with the Afghan cricketers but with the people of Afghanistan,” Campbell said.

(Suvajit Mustafi consumes cricket for lunch, fiction for dinner and munches numerous other snacks throughout the day. Yes, a jack of several trades, all Suvajit dreamt of was being India’s World Cup winning skipper but ended up being a sports writer, author, screenwriter, director, copywriter, graphic designer, sportsmarketer , strategist, entrepreneur,  philosopher and traveller. Donning so many hats, it’s cricket which gives him the ultimate high and where he finds solace. He can be followed at @RibsGully and rivu7)

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