CHRISTCHURCH — Before serious preparation for this World Cup had even begun, Sean Williams knew it would be a watershed tournament for him.
It wasn’t his own performances in the competition that Williams was worried about, but whether he would participate at all. If he wasn’t called on to do so, he confirmed he would have sought a cricket career abroad.
“I was supposed to have a disciplinary hearing because I had missed practices in Zimbabwe. There was a family illness. I had applied for leave and gone but then I was left out of the squad to Bangladesh,” Williams said.
“In the long run, I had to make a decision of securing my future because at that stage I had to think about packing up and going to another country and starting afresh.”
Williams was a regular in the starting XI and he began establishing his place as a reliable middle-order batsmen – he scored 6 fifties in 22 innings between May 2013 and September 2014 – who could also share the duties of the fifth bowler, which he had started to do with increasing success in a triangular series involving South Africa and Australia last August.
But he was overlooked for the trip to Bangladesh for what he called “reasons unknown.”
At the time, Zimbabwe’s convener of selectors Givemore Makoni confirmed Williams’ absence was the reason for his omission from the squad, but it was not established whether a hearing would still take place.
Williams was left to play in the domestic competition, where he scored a century, 96 and 42 from the three first-class matches he played in, a hundred and 48 in five List A games in which he also bowled at an economy of 3,34, and watch his team-mates humiliated on their travels.
Zimbabwe was blanked in the three Tests and five one–day internationals they played in Bangladesh, and although Williams didn’t go as far as to say he could have made a difference to that.
He was “extremely” frustrated at not being given an opportunity to try. “I was watching the Bangladeshi left-arm spinners doing what they were doing, and I knew I had a reasonable series against South Africa and Australia. I play in Bangladesh often and I seem to do well in Bangladesh so I wasn’t happy at all that I was left out,” he said.
“There was nothing I could do, it was out of my control.”
The only move he could make was one of the Zimbabwean system and the first thing he contemplated was heading next door to try and play in South Africa’s domestic twenty-over competition.
“South Africa was one of the options but it was going to be tough. I would have needed another passport to play there,” he said.
“Having a Zimbabwean passport doesn’t allow me to just go anywhere. I am an overseas player and I am up against the Gayles and guys like that, which makes life extremely hard.”
Williams realised that if he wanted to start over, it would mean doing exactly that, with all the hard graft that comes with rebuilding a life.
“I would have had to start from the bottom and work my way up again.”
So he decided to give it a little bit of time first, knowing the World Cup squad announcement would make the decision for him.
“If I hadn’t been considered for this tour, I would have looked to England,” he said.
A change of coach and a change in the selection panel resulted in a change of heart among Zimbabwe’s decision-makers. Williams was recalled on the back of decent domestic form and a reputation for bulking up the middle-order and chipping in with the ball, where he will do a slightly different job to the almost full quota of overs he bowled in the triangular series against South Africa and Australia.
“There are a few little changes in my role — very minor, nothing serious. The wickets don’t suit me that much with my spin so I will probably bowl a couple overs go off, and come back — not bowl longer spells.”
What he hopes will last a long time is his career in Zimbabwe, where things are looking up for the first time in months. The organisation has restructured and brought in former captain Alistair Campbell as its managing director.
Campbell’s primary task is to secure long-term sponsorship to dig Zimbabwe Cricket out of their hole of debt.
With money, it is hoped they will play more regular cricket and by implication have more opportunities to improve, which is all what Williams really wants. And he is not scared to look for it anywhere that search may take him.
“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 Premiere League it would be awesome, but I’m still a little far off that.”
If he does well enough in this World Cup, that too may change.