“Cremer became only the fifth Zimbabwean bowler to reach that milestone and he is just four wickets away from equally Grant Flower and five to surpass Flower as Zimbabwe’s third highest wicket-taker of all time. For someone who has served his nation for 13 years, experiencing more lows than ups leading an underdog Zimbabwe, that achievement will be huge”.
Ever since Graeme Cremer made his international debut, he has been a part of many ‘firsts.’ At the age of 18 and 109 days, when Cremer played under the Zimbabwean colours for the first time, he was the youngest debutant for his country before the record for broken by a few more player later on. He came in as a promising legspinner following the exits of Paul Strang, Andy Whittall and Ray Price. Cremer, seen by many as a Test specialist, took off his international career in 2005 with a loss in his maiden Test, the match which was Bangladesh’s first-ever Test win.
Although the teenager managed a Test debut at a such a young age purely because Zimbabwe desperately needed someone to fill in the shoes of Strang, Whittal and Price but it still required some mental strength from him to fearlessly compete on the top-most level. There he showed glimpses of being a prodigy which Zimbabwe had to carefully groom. He clinched six wickets in the two Tests against Bangladesh but in his next series, he would be up against some of the giants like Graeme Smith, Jacques Kallis and AB de Villiers. He eventually did dismiss all three of them, at least once. Just when Cremer would have thought he would become a permanent face in the Test side, Zimbabwe’s self-imposed exile happened and Cremer was forgotten for the next four years.
Till then, Cremer was being considered only for the whites and Zimbabwe had refused to try him in the white-ball game. He finally received his maiden ODI call and Zimbabwe’s five-match ODI series against Kenya was Cremer’s debut ODI series, which by far went excellent as he finished as the highest wicket-taker wih 15 wickets at an average of 11.46 and the visitors successfully had finished a clean sweep of 5-0.
He went on to play a few more series and just after the ICC Cricket World Cup 2011, Cremer shocked everyone by announcing his retirement and later it was known that the reason was payment dispute with the national cricketing board. He had even expressed that he would take up gold professionally but there was a sudden U-turn in his decision and he flew with the Zimbabwean squad to Pakistan for the tour of two T20Is and three ODIs.
There has been no looking back for Cremer since then. With every passing year, Cremer has only become a tad more integral part of the side and sometimes with both bat and ball. There have come many others like Hamilton Masakzada, Craig Ervine, Sikandar Raza and Brendon Taylor but none of those have managed to justify their talent like Cremer has. There have been massive consistency issues with these guys and in most of the situations, Zimbabwe have solely depended on their now captain, Cremer.
In 2016, after New Zealand whitewashed Zimbabwe in their backyard in two-Test series, the board had made crucial altercations. They brought in their most successful player, Heath Streak as the national coach and named Cremer as the captain. Zimbabwe then hosted Sri Lanka for two Tests.
During the first Test at Harare, Cremer took four wickets in Sri Lankan first innings and also chipped in with a crucial maiden Test century and helped his team to avoid follow-on. With this, he became the first Zimbabwe player and only the seventh captain to make a hundred and take four wickets in an innings of a Test. His efforts in both innings of the Test ended in vain, where they lost the match by 225 runs. However, Cremer was awarded man of the match for his all-round performance in the match before Zimbabwe lost this series 0–2.
Under Cremer’s captaincy, Zimbabwe also reached the final of a tri-series for the first time in six years but lost the match to Sri Lanka. However, Cremer and Co had reserved their best for their away tour against Sri Lanka. Cremer became the first Zimbabwe captain to defeat Sri Lanka in an ODI series. His efforts of nine wickets had almost won Zimbabwe their maiden Test against the same side. But, since the others failed to equally contribute, Cremer’s efforts went in vain.
Sri Lanka skipper Angelo Matthews had resigned from the role following their home series loss to Zimbabwe. He was once again given the captaincy prior to the tri-series in Bangladesh earlier this month. Cremer and Co once again shocked Sri Lanka as they took away the first ODI against them. Bangladesh entered the fifth ODI which was against Zimbabwe, unbeaten. The likes of Kyle Jarvis and Cremer shared seven wickets between them that restricted Bangladesh at 216. However, Cremer has had some bad omen against these opponents that whenever he had produced a good show, that had never been enough to beat Bangladesh.
When he bagged his final wicket of the day, his fourth, that trapped his counterpart Mashrafe Mortaza, who became Cremer’s 100th ODI victim. Cremer became only the fifth Zimbabwean bowler to reach that milestone and he is just four wickets away from equally Grant Flower and five to surpass Flower as Zimbabwe’s third highest wicket-taker of all time. For someone who has served his nation for 13 years, experiencing more lows than ups leading an underdog Zimbabwe, that achievement will be huge.