Exclusive Interview :”I Feel Sorry For This Generation Of Zimbabwean Players”, Says...

Exclusive Interview :”I Feel Sorry For This Generation Of Zimbabwean Players”, Says Murray Goodwin

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Goodwin amassed 412 runs from 4 Tests @ 82.40 against Pakistan (Image Courtesy: Getty Images )

‘’Veni, vidi, vici’’ are three words that perfectly describe Murray William Goodwin’s cricketing career in a nutshell. Standing about 5 feet 9 inches tall, the former Zimbabwean international came, saw and conquered the English county circuit, breaking records galore during his decade-long stint with Sussex. A master of horizontal bat shots, Goodwin’s international career came to an abrupt and premature end in 2000 when political crisis coupled with misadministration by some incompetent Zimbabwe Cricket Union officials cast aspersions on the progress of Zimbabwean cricket.

The next twelve years saw Goodwin ply his trade in England with Sussex CCC and score heavily in the county circuit with supreme panache. He was instrumental in slaking the thirsts of the inhabitants of Sussex for the county championship when his unbeaten 335 against Leicestershire propelled the county to its first ever Division One title triumph in its164-year history. More accolades followed as his 12-year spell at Hove yielded over 14,500 First-class runs to go with nine trophies which included three county championships, a couple of Division-Two titles, three One-Day tournament wins and a domestic T20 championship. He also established himself as a vital member of the star-studded Western Australian team of the late 90s and early 2000s by clocking up 4308 runs for them from 62 matches with 10 centuries and 21 fifties. A man of many feats, Goodwin has ample records in his possession. From recording the highest individual First-class score by a Sussex batsman to being the only Sussex player to have twice made a double century and a century in the same game to date, Goodwin has planted his flag atop various such summits. He also had a brief fling with the now defunct Indian Cricket League (ICL) while playing 8 games for the Ahmedabad Rocks in 2008.

The 43-year old ‘Goodwin who works as a real estate agent in Perth today, was appointed as the batting coach by his erstwhile club Sussex CCC earlier this year. In a wide ranging conversation with Cric Fit correspondent Ritam Basu, the former Zimbabwean batsman and Sussex legend reflected on his illustrious cricketing career and bared his thoughts about what is really curtailing the growth of the beleaguered Zimbabwean team.

Q: From Rhodesia to Australia, then back to Zimbabwe and finally settling down in Australia. Does Murray Goodwin sometimes look in the mirror and wonder if he had been an explorer in the past life?

Goodwin: No, I have never looked at it that way. As a professional cricketer, you will always have to be on your toes to explore different parts of the world. It’s all part of the job.

Q: How did you get into cricket?

Goodwin: I am part of a sporting family legacy. My two older brothers were also reasonably good cricketers. Darrell represented Zimbabwe before the country got Test status. So, it runs in the family. My dad is equally passionate about the game and at one point in time, when I was a child; he used to conduct a cricket tournament called the ‘Eagles Cricket’ program during school vacation time. A lot of players who later went on to represent Zimbabwe in international cricket like the Flower brothers, then obviously myself, Heath Streak, Stuart Carlisle and Craig Wishart came through the program. It was a fantastic initiative by my dad and he is well known for it.

Q: Do you think your technique is more analogous to the Aussie style of playing cricket even though you represented Zimbabwe in the international circuit?

Goodwin: Look, I was a short batsman who grew up playing on artificial Australian wickets that are generally hard and bouncy and I adapted to playing that way. It predominantly helped me become a good back-foot player. Later when I moved to the Cricket Academy, Rod Marsh’s expertise brought about immense improvement in my ability to play cross-batted shots.

Q: How did you benefit from your stint with the Australian Cricket Academy?

Goodwin: Learning my craft at the Cricket Academy under Rod Marsh’s supervision aided me in honing the skills required to become a good First-class cricketer. Rod Marsh instilled discipline in me and helped me identify the areas I needed to work on in order to become eligible for First class and international cricket. He always used to tell us that not only one ought to have enough discipline but also the guts and determination to reach the highest level. I am lucky to have spent some quality time at the Australian Cricket Academy.

Q: You were still there in Australia when the 1992 World Cup was held. Did the tournament magnify your cricketing ambitions?

Goodwin: The 1992 World Cup was a spectacular tournament to witness but the game itself motivated me to follow it blindly. I knew nothing except the game of cricket and that was why I decided to choose this path. I didn’t want to go the University and once I finished my schooling, I moved out of home and went overseas to play club cricket and chase my dreams.

Q: You could have made your career in Australia. What made you move to Zimbabwe to pursue your passion?

Goodwin: I played international cricket for Zimbabwe because I was born there. I wasn’t getting enough opportunities in the Western Australian side as I was batting at no. 6 for the majority of the season and at times when Justin Langer would be busy with his international duties, I was promoted up the order to no. 3. The Western Australian team had a plethora of superstars in its ranks at that time in Adam Gilchrist, Damien Martyn, Justin Langer and Tom Moody, so it was a bit difficult for me to bat up the order. On the other hand, Zimbabwe wanted me to come and bat in the top order for them. I did think about making a career as an Australian international but Zimbabwe was desperately in search of a top-order batsman and I also had some very close friends of mine in the Zimbabwean team at that point in time. So, it seemed the logical choice.

Q: The batch which represented Zimbabwe in the latter part of the 90s is hailed by many as the best team the country has ever produced. What made that particular team look so different than all the other generations?

Goodwin: To be honest, I am not sure whether it was the best Zimbabwean team ever or not. I just think that we had a bunch of quality players in the side like the Flower brothers, Heath Streak and Paul Strang. There have been some great teams in the past but at least we were very competitive as we won plenty of ODIs and a few Test series’ during that period. We all became good friends over the course of time and always looked to play for each other and help each other, be it on the field or off it. I think that is what turned us into a competitive unit.

Q: It took you only 19 Tests and 71 ODIs to cement your place in the upper echelons of Zimbabwean cricket. Yet, you decided to quit international cricket when you were in the heyday of your career. What was the primary reason?

Goodwin: It was a tough decision to wave goodbye to Zimbabwe. We loved living there but the kind of circumstances which enveloped the country in general and Zimbabwean cricket in particular at that point of time compelled me to consider leaving the country. Many people think that my wife had troubles settling there, but that’s not the whole truth. Apart from the abysmal political situation prevailing in the country, I was dissatisfied with the overall functioning of the Zimbabwe Cricket Union. I was newly married and being the sole breadwinner of the family, I wanted to ensure a safe future for my wife and children. There were many factors that threatened to hinder the career of a professional cricketer in the country back then. We didn’t receive regular payments. I would have loved to continue playing for Zimbabwe had the ZCU been a bit more professional with its operations.

Q: Do you think you could have finished as Zimbabwes greatest batsman had you decided to prolong your international career?

Goodwin: If not the greatest, I reckon I would have been right up there had I not hung up my international boots so early.

Q: What are your memories from the 1999 World Cup?

Goodwin: Yeah, the 1999 World Cup brought with it plenty of good memories. When we were informed that Sachin would not be playing against us at Leicestershire (in a Group-A encounter) owing to the demise of his father, we were overjoyed. Henry (Olonga) in particular was relieved after hearing the news because on previous occasions, Sachin had played him really well. I know it was a very hard phase for him to cope up with, but with due respect to Sachin and his family, it came as delightful news for us as we were free from the burden of having to chalk out separate plans for him. We eventually won that match. It was a wonderful effort on our part to reach the Super Six stage and compete against some of the best players in the world. I scored 40 odd runs (47 off 76 balls) in our Super Six tie against Australia and it was a very satisfying knock for me even though we ended up losing that game. I also remember watching the final Super Six game between South Africa and Australia in our hotel. The moment (Herschelle) Gibbs fumbled (Steve’s) Waugh’s catch; we leapt out of our seats in excitement. Later we all came to know what had actually transpired between them (laughs). No wonder that particular incident is dubbed one of the greatest World Cup moments ever.

Q: You boast an excellent record against Pakistan. Did you relish playing against one of the best bowling attacks the game has ever seen in Wasim Akram, Waqqar Younus and Saqlain Mushtaq?

Goodwin: Yes, I enjoyed playing against the Pakistani team. I felt it was a top-notch team with an outstanding bowling-attack. The likes of Wasim, Waqqar, Shoaib Akhtar, Saqlain Mushtaq and Mushtaq Ahmed were formidable on their day and you had to concentrate really hard while batting against them.When you are facing some high-quality bowling, you have got to step up to the plate and those guys from Pakistan were of the highest quality.

(For the sake of statistics, Goodwin amassed 412 runs from 4 Tests @ 82.40 against Pakistan)

Q: You had a fairy tale run with Sussex over twelve seasons- a span during which you won nine trophies with the county. In a recent interview, you confessed that before signing for Sussex, you didnt even know where it was on the World Map, and you went on later to become a Sussex legend!

Goodwin: I literally didn’t know where Sussex was prior to signing with the Sussex CCC even though I had played there a year before in a few warm-up games ahead of the 1999 World Cup at Hastings. At that time I didn’t even realize it was Sussex! I am privileged to have made loads of runs in a career spanning twelve years at Sussex. I love the club and it is a great team to play for.

Q: You were roped in by Sussex to fill in the void left by Michael Bevan. What do you remember from your first season with the county?

Goodwin: To step into Michael Bevan’s shoes was a big challenge for me. He was a run-machine and I just came over to fit into the side and tried to make up for his absence to the best of my ability. I was fortunate to score plenty of runs and win the second division of the Championship in my first season with the club. I was asked to open the batting which I didn’t prefer doing at the start but I managed to accomplish the job quite efficiently. Opening the batting, I laid the foundation for the team on most occasions through the season and we eventually emerged victorious in the second division in 2001. As a result, the club opted to retain me in the side for the subsequent seasons.

Q: Talk us through Sussexs maiden county championship win in 2003.

Goodwin: I didn’t know it was the oldest county to never win the championship. At the start of the first day’s play of our final league game against Leicestershire, I told the boys in the dressing room that if we went into the game with a winning attitude, we could well and truly end Sussex’s 164-year wait for the county championship. Talking about the local talent, we had some excellent local bowlers in Jason Lewry, James Kirtley and Robin Martin-Jenkins. In order to win trophies at that level, the first and foremost thing you need to have is a strong bowling attack and having people like Mushtaq Ahmed, Yasir Arafat and Rana Naved around was a big boost for the side. All we needed to do was score a few runs and leave the rest to the bowlers. Luckily I was the one to top-score against Leicestershire with 335*. Furthermore, to go past Duleepsinhji’s 333 and set a new batting record for Sussex felt really special because the previous record remained intact for a long time.

(Duleepsinhjis record for the highest individual score by a Sussex batsman stood for 73 years before Goodwin leapfrogged over the formers 333 with 335*against Leicestershire in 2003).

Q: How did you adapt to playing in the English conditions?

Goodwin: Making good use of the front-foot to combat the swing helped. It took me a little bit of time at the beginning to adapt my game to suit the English conditions.

Q: Sussex had a host of quality overseas players in its ranks with yourself, Mushtaq Ahmed, Rana Naved and Yasir Arafat. What does it take to be a successful overseas player in county-cricket?

Goodwin: To become a successful overseas player in the county circuit, firstly you ought to have the passion and the drive to win games. Secondly, you have got to fit into the team culture and create an identity of your own. Lastly, you have got to get along with everyone and be able to have fun because I have known from my own experience that once you learn to have fun in the dressing room, it automatically rubs off on the rest of your teammates and leaves a positive impact on the team as a whole.

Q: Your First-Class career comprises of a couple of triple hundreds. You mentioned your first triple hundred a while ago. How was the feeling different when you got to your second triple ton?

Goodwin: My first triple hundred was overridden by the glory of our triumph in the 2003 Division One county championship. In that game against Leicestershire, I was concerned about the timing of our declaration as I wanted the captain to declare early in a bid to give ourselves the best chance of winning, but my teammates kept encouraging me to carry on. It was not until Tea on Day 2 that I came to know that I was on the threshold of establishing a new record for Sussex. I owe that knock to my teammates.
The second triple ton came in different circumstances against Somerset at Taunton in 2009. Justin Langer was playing for the opposition and so was Marcus Trescothick. It was a pretty flat wicket and those guys from the opposition wanted to see if I could go on and make a 500. Again, I was very lucky to break my own record and reach a new milestone for Sussex.

(For the sake of statistics, Goodwin’s 351-ball 344*, studded with 43 fours and 6 sixes against Somerset at Taunton in 2009 is the sixth highest individual score in the history of county cricket and 38th overall in the history of First-class cricket). 

Q: You led Sussex to the title triumph in the English Pro-40 Division One competition in 2008. The final went all the way to a nail-biting finish as you struck a six off the final delivery to seal the tie for your side. What was going through your mind before preparing to face the final ball?

Goodwin: Every aspiring cricketer’s dream is to win his side a match by hitting a six off the last ball. Needing four to win off the final over against Nottinghamshire at Trent Bridge, I eavesdropped on a conversation between Charlie Shreck and the opposition keeper Chris Read and comprehended from reading their lips that Shreck would bowl full outside the off-stump towards the big boundary. So, what I did was I stepped across just outside the off-stump and hit the ball over the bowler’s head. Fortunately, Shreck missed the yorker by a whisker and the ball sailed over mid-on for a six! It was an awesome feeling to see the entire team erupt and run onto the field.

Murray Goodwin leaves the field after his last innings for Sussex. ©Getty Images
Murray Goodwin leaves the field after his last innings for Sussex. ©Getty Images

Q: How difficult was it to end an 11-year long association with Sussex and head for a new county in Glamorgan in 2013?

Goodwin: I was saddened by my departure from Sussex. Not getting enough chances in the Playing XI when I still had a lot to offer felt disappointing. I received a standing ovation from the crowd after playing my final innings which was an acknowledgement of my services to the club. Sussex CCC had been an integral part of my career. However I didn’t wish to quit the game altogether in 2013, so when I received the offer from Glamorgan, I thought it was the right thing to assent to the offer.

Q: Why did your spell at Glamorgan end up being a rather forgettable affair?

Goodwin: I suppose I had I bit of disagreement with the coach there. He was a sort of an insecure person. Not only I but majority of the players didn’t see eye to eye with the coach but I had a good time during my first season with the club. From the second season onward, things started going downhill.

Q: What has been your fondest memory with Sussex?

Goodwin: I have quite a few good memories with Sussex; obviously winning the first Championship in 2003 was the best feeling. I was also conferred with the ‘Sussex Player of the Year’ quite a few times. Also hitting a last-ball six and helping Sussex secure the 2008 Pro 40 Division One title against Nottinghamshire was an astonishing and memorable experience for me. Scoring my two triple centuries and clinching the record for the highest individual score by a Sussex batsman is another thing which will be etched in my memory forever. But above all, winning those trophies for Sussex and celebrating the triumphs with my teammates in the dressing room are some of my fondest memories with the club. Any victory would be rendered useless unless you embrace your teammates and their achievements as well.

Q: Earlier this year, you were named as the new batting coach of Sussex. How has the experience of coaching Sussex been different from that of playing for the club?

Goodwin: It was a bit weird going to Sussex not as a player. Half the time I walk into the change room imagining myself putting my pads on but I wake up every morning only to come to terms with the fact that I am not a player anymore but a coach. Sussex is an affable club and the people over there are wonderful as well. I am privileged to have received the offer and I have enjoyed every minute of my coaching career so far.

Q: You also spent thirteen seasons playing the Sheffield Shield for Western Australia. Any conversation with either Adam Gilchrist or Justin Langer at the crease thatsticks out in your memory?

Goodwin: Justin and Gilly (Gilchrist) were excellent people to share the dressing room with. I used to enjoy Gilly’s sense of humour thoroughly. Justin’s determination to constantly improve himself was a huge inspiration to me as well. Hence I had a great time playing around players of that calibre and I also learnt a lot from watching them play. They are really good friends of mine.

Q: You played county cricket for Sussex as well as the Sheffield Shield. Where were you more comfortable?

Goodwin: I was comfortable playing in both countries. Initially it took me a bit of time to adjust to the English conditions but once I gained a strong foothold in England, I never looked back. On the flip side, Australia has always been a familiar territory for me.

Q: How are the two systems different from each other?

Goodwin: Ummm…. (Thinks for a while and continues) at present, you can’t spot too many differences between the two systems. When I was playing, we used to get a few days off between matches in Australia while in England the schedules were much more compact. That has undergone a change today. Now the volume of cricket played in both countries is massive.

Q: You also have a couple of T20 centuries to your credit. How did you pace those two knocks?

Goodwin: Scoring my first T20 ton was special because I, not being a power-hitter had to improvise in shot making. Initially what I looked to do was to hit a boundary and rotate the strike and later when I found myself at the crease at the end of 15 overs; I went hammer and tongs, aided by a bit of luck to make maximum use of the slog overs. That is how I got my two T20 centuries.

Q: You reckon with the advent of T20 cricket, batsmen needlessly tend to improvise these days?

Goodwin: I reckon batsmen sometimes look to improvise more than is necessary; especially went they try to dabble with way too many shots. Improvisation calls for waiting for the right opportunity to play a certain kind of shot. If you imbibe that attitude, I think you will become more consistent. If you try to experiment too much, the game will come back to bite you. Improvisation is all about playing smart cricket and taking calculated risks on odd occasions.

Q: Do you rue over not getting an IPL contract in spite of having two T20 tons in your CV?

Goodwin: I gave my name for the auction in 2009 but was left unsold. Damien Martyn was picked by Rajasthan Royals; thanks to his intimate friendship with Warnie (Shane Warne). But I don’t rue over missing out on an IPL contract.

Q: You had been a practitioner of conventional cricketing shots all through your career. Suppose, your children come up to you tomorrow and urge you to teach them the Dil-scoop or the ramp shot. What would you tell them?

Goodwin: Yes, I had primarily been a conventional batsman but I also improvised and practised a lot of new shots in the nets, so if my sons approach me tomorrow and urge me to teach the shots you have just mentioned, of course I would. Like I said, it’s about having the ability and confidence to play a particular shot- be it a conventional shot or an improvised version. I welcome all these new shots and feel that every cricketer should get out of his comfort zone once in a while and face unforeseen challenges that may help him develop into a better all-round player. But one needs to wait for the right opportunity and right match-situation to execute such shots. Playing each ball on its merit is also very important.

Q: Zimbabwean cricket seems to be at its lowest ebb at the moment having lost all its last three Test and ODI series. What according to you has truncated the growth of cricket in a nation which once promised so much?

Goodwin: Yes, Zimbabwean cricket is certainly not in a great place at the moment. The root of all problems lies in the way the game is being run in the country. I sincerely hope the players are rescued from this quicksand as quickly as possible. Heath Streak is an ideal man to assume the role of a torchbearer at the moment.

Q: What is the state of First class cricket in Zimbabwe today? Isnt Zimbabwe Cricket undertaking any positive step to improve the current scenario?

Goodwin: Look, I think Zimbabwe Cricket is working very hard to turn things around and bring about improvement in the First-class structure. That said; the First-class is presently not a good competition; it is pretty much a ‘non-event’ today.

Q: Are you at all optimistic about Zimbabwean crickets progress in the near future if the situation remains unaltered?

Goodwin: I am really concerned about the future progress of Zimbabwe. The dearth of competitiveness at the domestic level is nothing but an outcome of the political instability in the country over the last two decades. Sometimes I feel sorry for this generation of Zimbabwean cricketers. They are struck in the doldrums. All they want to do is play good cricket and get paid regularly so that they can earn their daily bread. I think this is where the ICC should intervene and get some of the former players to coach the next crop of talented players.

Q: What measures according to you should be undertaken by the Zimbabwe Cricket officials to restore the lost confidence of the national side?

Goodwin: I just hope that the ICC steps in and provides financial assistance to Zimbabwe. Not just that, I would also like the ICC to monitor and audit the funds allocated to Zimbabwe Cricket on a regular basis so that the resources are properly channelized. It is also imperative for the board officials in Zimbabwe to initiate grassroots development programs for children. It’s a major area of concern at present. I am sure Heath Streak has identified these aspects and will be looking to work on these as soon as possible.

Q: Who is your favourite Zimbabwean cricketer from this generation?

Goodwin: Sean Williams. I really like his technique.

Q: Now that you have gained some decent experience as a coach, what would your response be if the Zimbabwean cricket officials approach you tomorrow with an offer to take charge of the national side?

Goodwin: Well, Heath Streak is doing a fantastic job at present. Honestly speaking, it’s a tough one to answer. I have some decent coaching experience under my belt but it will be a challenging proposition to coach the Zimbabwean national team. I enjoy coaching and I would look at it for future consideration. Right now, Zimbabwean cricket is in good hands with Heath Streak.

Q: Your 20-year long professional career is a glaring testimony to your sheer longevity as a top-class player. What had been your fitness regime during your active days as a cricketer?

Goodwin: Well during my playing days, every time I would fail to put up a good show, I would indulge myself in exercising. So, doing different types of exercise in a bid to stay in top shape helped me set a template not only for the youngsters in the team but also for my children.

Q: Any two fitness tips that you would like to share with our readers?

Goodwin: 1. I am certainly of the opinion that youngsters, especially those who are bowlers need to run at least 3 to 5 kms once a week in order to condition themselves. That is essential. I have the same word of advice for the budding batsmen as well.

  1. One can always mix up his workout with sprinting and exercising. I would also encourage the youngsters to try their hands at other kinds of fitness-oriented games like squash.

Q: OK Mr. Goodwin, its now time to head towards our famous rapid-fire round. Shall we begin?

Goodwin: Yes, certainly.

Q: Your nickname?

Goodwin: Muzza.

Q: Your favourite cuisine?

Goodwin: Barbeque.

Q: Your favourite holiday destination?

Goodwin: Any beach.

Q: Your favourite ground?

Goodwin: LORD’S.

Q: Your favourite movie?

Goodwin: I prefer to watch different types of comedy movies. ‘Dumb and Dumber’ and ‘Old School’ are two of my favourite films.

Q: Your favourite actor?

Goodwin: Adam Sandler.

Q: Favourite actress?

Goodwin: Demi Moore.

Q: A song you love to rewind time and again?

Goodwin: ‘Chasing Cars’ is really good.

Q: First thing you bought with your salary from professional cricket?

Goodwin: A car.

Q: Any superstition?

Goodwin: No.

Q: The most difficult bowler you faced in your career.

Goodwin: Shane Warne. Even though it would be baseless to compare pacers with spinners, a few pace bowlers were equally difficult to come against. The likes of Wasim Akram, Curtly Ambrose and Glenn Mcgrath had the ability to make life difficult for the batsmen. I also found it very hard to face Javagal Srinath. Murali (Muttiah Muralitharan) also tested me a few times. But Warnie is definitely the toughest bowler I have ever faced in my career.

Q: What was Warnes X-factor?

Goodwin: Warnie’s mental toughness and ‘never say die’ attitude are two qualities that made him look such a good player.

Q: What is the first thing that comes to your mind when I name the following people?

Andy Flower- An inspirational leader.

Sachin Tendulkar- A great batsman.

Heath Streak- A canny bowler.

Dave Houghton- A great coach.

Sourav Ganguly- An astute thinker and a good batsman.

Muttiah Muralitharan- One of the greatest spinners of my generation.

Q: Your best friends in the cricket circuit?

Goodwin: Ricky Ponting, Adam Gilchrist, Mike Hussey, Grant Flower and Stuart Carlisle are really close friends of mine.

Q: Your favourite cricketing shot?

Goodwin: The Square cut.

Q: Best compliment you have ever received in your career.

Goodwin: Shane Warne once said that he regards me as one of Zimbabwe’s greatest batsmen.

Q: Your favourite cricketing moment?

Goodwin: Winning any trophy is obviously a special milestone in any cricketer’s career. Playing Test cricket and getting a few good individual scores were wonderful experiences but winning trophies is what I personally like because it gives you the opportunity to celebrate a triumph with your teammates.

Q: Any regrets?

Goodwin: No, I don’t have any regrets about my career. A few things could have gone better but overall, there are no regrets as such.

Q: The last question. If you ever plan to write an autobiography, what would its title be?

Goodwin: I have actually got two alternative titles. One of them would be titled ‘’In the Present’’ and another would be ‘’Just Enjoy’’ because both these aspects helped me shape my career. Living in the present and playing each ball on merit are prerequisites to building a successful career in cricket. One should not think too far ahead and focus on the present. Every time I tried to go the other way I either got out or the match slipped away from our hands. Secondly, I loved playing cricket because I enjoyed it. Sometimes having fun and adding to the merriment in the dressing room can work wonders for your side which often has a direct bearing upon your team’s performance on the field. So yeah, these two names should make good titles.

Q: Do you plan to write an autobiography anytime soon?

Goodwin: No, I haven’t really thought of writing one as of yet..