When Colin de Grandhomme made his international debut for New Zealand in 2012, it was against his country of birth – Zimbabwe. It took him four more years to truly make a name for himself, on his Test debut against Pakistan, when he took 6 for 41 from 15.5 overs in the first innings.
De Grandhomme, now 30, has a family history with cricket. Hillary ‘Bunny’ de Grandhomme, his great uncle, and Laurence de Grandhomme, his father, played first-class cricket in Zimbabwe. Growing up in Harare, it’s the sport he played more than any other, and even represented Zimbabwe at the 2004 Under-19 World Cup, and then turned out for the Zimbabwe A and Zimbabwe Under-23 teams. Soon after, though, like many other cricketers, de Grandhomme decided to shift base and moved to Auckland in search of better career prospects. This was in 2006.
“I moved probably just to play club cricket and then I managed to stay on just for a better future, probably in terms of, obviously because it’s a first-world country (New Zealand), like payments and stuff are guaranteed,” explains de Grandhomme in a chat with Wisden India on the sidelines of the Indian Premier League 2017, where he played for Kolkata Knight Riders. “Back in Zimbabwe, contracts and that, we weren’t guaranteed we were going to get, you’ve seen some of the players back then, some of them haven’t received what they’re probably owed.”
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Zimbabwe’s in the past, and the New Zealand cricket team is the present and the future for him. He hasn’t done a great deal in the limited chances he has got for the national team, but has still done enough to be a part of the squad for the upcoming Champions Trophy. Mainly because as a disciplined medium pacer and big-hitting lower-middle order batsman, he ticks enough boxes, like Jimmy Neesham and Corey Anderson.
In his own words, de Grandhomme is “normally a batsman who bowls, but some days the bowling’s better than the batting”. He comes across as somewhat rugged, quite rough and ready, and is also quite shy.
Moving to a new country when just past 20 couldn’t have been easy, but de Grandhomme knew what he wanted. “Obviously, (New Zealand’s) a lot colder, you don’t get the outdoor facilities that you do in Africa. With coaching, I had Dipak Patel, who was at Auckland, so I had someone that I could go back to all the time. He (Patel) was very experienced and a good player and he’s a good coach,” he elaborated.
“It’s hard without your family there but once I moved in with a guy from the club (a colleague) with his family, it became a lot easier.”
From there, slowly but steadily, de Grandhomme has gone up the ladder in the domestic circuit. Neesham and Anderson are the more established names for a similar sort of role, but the competition for places isn’t something de Grandhomme fusses about much.
“The decision should be good for the team,” he says. “Probably push all the allrounders a bit harder, hopefully, make them better. Obviously you want to go out there and do the best at both. I just try and concentrate on one thing at a time so if I’m bowling, I’ll do the best at that and if I’m batting, I’ll try and get as many runs as I can.”
One thing that comes across while talking to him is that de Grandhomme is extremely grateful to the people who’ve helped him in his career. Like when he talks about getting a chance to play in the IPL with Kolkata.
“I got a call from the CEO, Mr Venky Mysore, and it all went from there,” he says with a big smile. “I needed to sort my flights and visas out and come out here. The management team we’ve got at KKR is all good, organised and we’ve got good coaches from JK (Jacques Kallis) and (Simon) Katich and Bala (L Balaji) and even Mark (Boucher). The team environment seems to be a happy one because the people at the top are also good.”
It’s been a whirlwind few months for de Grandhomme since his Test debut in November 2016, where he has established himself in the New Zealand senior setup and done as well as Kolkata would have wanted him to when they invested in him as a replacement for Andre Russell. He has usually batted low, but has hit 126 runs at a strike rate of 138.46, and has picked up four wickets from nine bowling innings while conceding runs at 8.43. Not great, but good enough. De Grandhomme would hope to do more in the future, for New Zealand and whatever other teams he plays for.