INTERVIEW: ‘You’re going to see a different Zimbabwe in 2027’ – Johnathan Campbell

INTERVIEW: ‘You’re going to see a different Zimbabwe in 2027’ – Johnathan Campbell

By Cricbuzz

For Zimbabwe, debutant Johnathan Campbell is one of the few bright spots in the ongoing tour against Bangladesh. Son of former captain Alistair Campbell, Johnathan has so far shown enough signs of handling the pressure associated with international cricket. In an exclusive chat with Cricbuzz, Johnathan spoke about his journey, his father’s impact on his life, how he deals with expectations and more.

Here are the excerpts:

You had a chat with your father after the game?

Yeah, absolutely yeah, we chat all the time, we chat you know after every game, and was just checking in how I went, and obviously I went pretty well in the first game, so he was pretty happy with that.

You started your career with first class cricket but you’ve now made your international debut in T20. What do you make of that?

I think I have always been more of a white ball cricketer, I recently found some success in the red ball format but I always knew that I could put a decent striking ability so, it was just about you know going up and being fearless and backing your ability to strike the ball and go and enjoy yourself.

Your father is a Zimbabwean legend. So there is going to be pressure and there will be expectations…

Yeah, there is always a level of expectation obviously, wherever I go its competing against what he has done in the past and where he scored runs, I have gotta try and score more runs. So, yeah there is a level of expectation but that’s good you know it sets some sort of goals for me to go and achieve and it gives me sort of pathway to try and be successful. There is always fun I mean for me, I try and put the expectations to the side, whatever happens, happens but I try to enjoy my cricket, at the end of the day why I am playing it because I love the game of cricket. And that’s what I try to remind myself all the time.

How inspiring was he (Alistair) when you were in you were growing up?

Oh, absolutely, I mean he was the one that’s probably made me play cricket in the first place. I still watch videos of him today, playing against Bangladesh, playing against Pakistan and watch him play against all these legends and taking them on and he was obviously very successful against them. So, yeah he was a big inspiration while growing up for me, and he still is now and hopefully by him watching me, he is obviously getting a lot of pleasure.

But you were not someone who was very keen to take cricket because of your fascination for golf?

Yeah, obviously I love golf, but cricket’s number 1 for me. Golf’s more of a hobby for me. Cricket is pressure golf is fun so yeah but its always good.

It looks like golf helped as far as your bat swing is concerned?

Jonathan: Absolutely, I mean that free flowing swing definitely helps. In golf you can swing as hard as you want so creating that swing power from that there certainly is some similarities.

How inspiring was your mother because she used to play golf.

Jonathan: What people don’t really know is that my mom was a very talented sportsman herself, she played tennis really well, she played hockey, she was a good golfer as well so yeah she has obviously got a lot of ability.

Let’s talk about your journey, how did you start playing cricket and in what capacity?

Jonathan: So, I obviously started at a very young age always loved cricket cause I always knew my dad was playing cricket at the time when I was young, so always watching him while growing up playing cricket and then going through school I was always quite small so I really didn’t have the power at a younger age but I always had the ability to play cricket, I played a lot of other sports as well so, it wasn’t just focusing on cricket, I played good hockey, I played good tennis so, I played quite a number of sports while growing up. Only until I was sort of 18 that I decided well, I went to England and I did a gap year at school there and after a year’s time I then had to decide to go to university or play cricket and I decided to play cricket and that’s the career path.

You had to wait for five years to make your debut despite playing first-class cricket five years ago.

I think it was patience. I obviously was hoping, would’ve hoped to make my debut a bit sooner. But I think it comes at the right time, and I think I’m matured enough now as a player, I understand my game as well as I can so I have grown up and when I walked up that first time to play international cricket I didn’t feel like I was out of it, I felt like I belong here, this is where I need to be, and this is how I need to play cricket.

Did your father help you during the time when you were trying to make a mark?

Absolutely, he is always a big advocate and prepared me for international cricket said if I’m not exceeding extremely well at domestic level then I’m not ready enough. As soon as I start exceeding well above expectation at domestic level, I am ready to play. And this season I played really well in domestic cricket and exceeded expectations. So, I knew my time would come. And obviously my time came.

Who was your coach apart from your father?

Apart from my father, Gary Brent has been one of my coaches. Steve Kirby who was actually the national bowling coach, he actually asked me to move franchises this year, so, I moved franchises year and came to his franchise where he was coaching. And he told me, “Listen, I do believe if we have one season with you here you’ll be propelled to the national side if you play properly”

Which Franchise?

The Southern Rocks. I played for his franchise and at the end of the season I have got my debut so, he fulfilled his promise. He is a very good coach and he has helped me a lot with my bowling, I know you haven’t seen my bowling yet in international cricket but I am sure that will come at a later stage but he has helped a lot with the mental side of things as well. And that’s been really good.

Talking about your bowling, how did leg spin happen?

When I was about 7 years old I used to bowl pace as every young kid you wanna run in and bowl as fast as you can and then my grand-father, my Dad’s father, he said to me “No, you’re too small, you can’t bowl pace.” So he changed me into a leg spinner and said these are the bowlers that take wickets.

That became true in your life?

That was in sort of early 2000’s when he changed me and imagine in early 2000’s you didn’t see the likes of Rashid Khan anyone like that back then. There was Shane Warne of course and that’s what he obviously followed and said these are the type of bowlers, seeing Shane Warne take wickets that’s who you need to be like. So, that was the change.

Your grandfather played cricket?

He played a little bit of cricket. Obviously he was the one that changed my dad. My dad who was a natural right-handed cricketer and he changed him into a left-handed player.


He believed that, your top hand must be your strongest hand so that’s why he transitioned. So, the right hand should be his top hand on the bat and that’s why he should be a left-handed batsman. And that’s what happened and my dad taught me the same thing.

Where do Zimbabwe cricket go from here? How disheartening it is for you missing out on the T20 World Cup?

Very disheartening, I mean you look at all the teams in the World Cup and you can’t tell me Zimbabwe is not good enough to be a part of that. It’s a big shame, it is very disheartening for now but it is gone, there is nothing we can do.

We have got to go from there, we have got obviously these last two games against Bangladesh now then we have got the India series, we are expecting to win a couple of games, we haven’t played our best cricket so far in the series, we bounced good at some stage and I think that India series will be a big series for us.

We have beaten India in the past a couple of times and then we got a Test match against Ireland as well, so there is a lot of cricket to come for Zimbabwe in the next couple of months and then obviously looking forward to the 2027 World Cup which is hosted in Zimbabwe. So, there is a lot of cricket which we guarantee to play, so, we are preparing towards that and I think you’re going to see a different Zimbabwe come 2027 when there is gonna be a World Cup.