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08/02/2015 00:00:00
by Cricbuzz.com
Sean Williams abuses umpire, suspended
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Cricket World Cup: Zim re-announce themselves

"I'M NERVOUS," grins Zimbabwean all-rounder Sean Williams when asked about his wedding, scheduled in April after the conclusion of the 2015 ICC World Cup, before joking: "That's why I came here."

In Christchurch, where Zimbabwe are based for their pre-tournament warm-up matches, the excitement is palpable on Williams' face when he talks of being back with his team-mates in what he terms a transformed environment under a new administration and coach Dav Whatmore.

Williams is thrilled to be back in the squad after being dropped in October following a public argument with then head coach Stephen Mangongo, but there is a tinge of hurt when he talks of the incident that reportedly led to his exclusion from the squad that went to Bangladesh.

He did not receive any word from the selectors as to why he was dropped and admits to have been in a 'difficult' phase when out of the national team.

"I got dropped, surprisingly to me, and then I went home and played franchise cricket," says Williams.

"I did well and was still ignored for reasons unknown. I didn't ask why. I just carried on playing and then the coach obviously changed, and I was called straight back into the squad. No questions asked. Nothing. It was extremely annoying [to be left out]."

Sitting at home watching his team-mates struggle in Bangladesh, where they were beaten 3-0 in Tests and 5-0 in ODIs, added to Williams' frustration.

"I was watching the Bangladeshi left-arm spinners doing what they were doing,” he said.

“I had a reasonable series against Australia and South Africa, and I'd played in Bangladesh often enough and seemed to do well enough over there, so yeah, I was not happy at all to be left out.

“There was nothing I could do, it was out of my hands. I had to keep quiet and move on."

Moving on meant looking elsewhere for opportunities as a professional cricketer – a path that several Zimbabweans have taken over the last decade or so against the backdrop of financial instability.

Williams has spoken of his commitment to Zimbabwean cricket before - in particular after he had made himself unavailable for a Test against Pakistan in 2013 - but after the argument with Mangongo and being overlooked for the tour of Bangladesh he was faced with a new challenge.


"I was supposed to have a disciplinary hearing because I missed work due to a family illness, and I'd applied for leave and gone. I ended up having a fight with the coach, face to face in front of everybody, which wasn't great," he says.

"In the long run, it was going to be a decision about securing my future. At that stage when I’d gone home and made runs and taken wickets, and they [the selectors] didn't consider me for the one-day games, I had to literally think of packing up and going to live in another country; starting afresh.

Dropped Williams for disastrous Bangladesh tour ... Stephen Mangongo

South Africa was one of the options, but I would have had to get another passport. Being on a Zimbabwean passport doesn't allow me to just walk into a country and say 'right, I'm here'.

“Now, I'm an overseas player so I'm up against the Gayles and all those guys, which makes life extremely hard. I would've had to start at the bottom and work my way up again."

For now, Williams is part of the ODI setup at the World Cup but the uncertainty lurks considering the health of the Zimbabwean board.

"If I hadn't been reconsidered for this tour, I probably would have looked to go to England as soon as possible," he says.

"Now I am committed [to Zimbabwe cricket] but obviously we still look elsewhere [for more opportunities to play]. If I could play county cricket, it would be great. If I could play in the Dhaka Premier League, it would be great.

“If I could play in the Indian Premier League (IPL), it would be awesome. Playing as much cricket as possible is what I'd like to do. We are not on the schedule as all the other international teams."

The home bilateral series against South Africa in August 2014 was a personal success for Williams, 28, with two fifties in three games as well as three wickets.

His batting tailed off in the subsequent tri-series featuring Australia (54 runs in four innings) but his left-arm spin accounted for four wickets at an impressive economy rate of 3.87.

Now back in the squad in a World Cup, the all-rounder is hopeful of picking up from where he left off.

"Playing in a franchise league is obviously not as strong as the national level, but coming back and training hard with Dav has been good," says Williams.

"He's very good at putting us in situations that are actually at international level. Our training has been good in that aspect. I've come back pretty well and there are a few little changes in the role I will play.

“Very minor changes. The wickets here don't suit me that much with my spin, it won't spin as much, so it's probably the case of a couple overs and then I go off, then come back."

And with Zimbabwe' most experience spinner, the former captain Prosper Utseya, barred from bowling in the World Cup, Williams could find himself playing as a the specialist spinner come February 15 when the team play South Africa at Hamilton's Seddon Park.

"Taking wickets against the top teams is the key to winning," says Williams, whose left-arm spin has fetched him 22 wickets in 69 ODIs at an economy of 4.76.

"I do think we are missing one good quality spinner, a wicket-taking spinner. We've mainly got containers.

“Not so long ago, I was a part-time bowler but now all of a sudden I'm now looked at as one of the main spinners who bats in the middle order.

“We've got a lot of guys who can bat and bowl part-time, but now with Craig Ervine back in the team, it strengthens the batting."

Zimbabwe are placed in Pool B with India, South Africa, Pakistan, West Indies, Ireland and UAE. Realistically, according to Williams, they are looking at making the quarter-finals.

"It's obviously going to take another big upset like an Australia game I'm not saying we'll beat any of them but we're going to have to beat either of West Indies, Pakistan, South Africa or India," he said.

"The problem is, expectations are high to beat UAE and Ireland. Ireland have a lot of county players in their team, players who play a lot of cricket consistently, whereas we've fallen behind a bit.

“I hope we beat a top team, but it's beating those smaller teams first that is important before we set our sights on beating the bigger ones."

If Zimbabwe manage that, it will add massively to the good vibes emanating from the camp. And you can bet on a lot more smiles and jokes and beer. And an even happier Mrs-Williams-to-be back in Bulawayo.

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