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The ever-promising Tatenda Taibu - A victim of Zimbabwe's troubled administration

Although today Taibu seems content with his life, happy to be spreading the message of God at a local church, his career is a perfect example of how a bright cricketing future can be ruined because of troubled administration and political turmoil in the country.

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Feature 19 May 2015, 00:51 IST
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Zimbabwe’s Tatenda Taibu appeals during a match against New Zealand in 2012

The state of affairs in the African nation of Zimbabwe has always been affecting its cricket administration directly and deeply. Although the condition seems to be improving recently, constant political turmoil in the country has seen player strikes and criticism of the cricket board being frequent events. Several players have had to bear the brunt of this state of things, none more so than Tatenda Taibu.

Having made his debut for the national side in 2001 and being appointed captain in April 2004, making him the youngest Test captain in history, Taibu was seen as a perfectly natural wicketkeeper-batsman with a slight build and a sound batting technique.

While the sun was shining bright on Taibu and his career graph was looking promising, controversies were not far away. Being made to lead an unexperienced Zimbabwean side for the tour to South Africa in 2005, Taibu saw the worst side of cricket lovers and journalists. The Zimbabwe side was completely battered in all the matches and the tour was being seen as an embarassment and disgrace to the country.

Being made to face the media in November, some of the players went all the way and mounted heavy criticism on the cricket board. In the press conference which seemed more like an open threat to the board, the players went on to speak about the poor state of affairs in the cricket administration of Zimbabwe, threatening an impending players’ strike.

The Zimbabwe cricket board, which obviously was allergic to criticism by then, did not take this very well. Taibu revealed that he and his wife were facing death threats at the time from individuals who had close ties with the board and Robert Mugabe’s political party(Zimbabwe President at the time). Under intense pressure from the administration, Taibu decided to call curtains on his international career.

International return, further controversy and evangelical calling

During his 2-year exile, Taibu played a season for Namibia and then even moved to South Africa trying to try his luck for the Cape Cobras and eventually for the South African national side. However destiny had other plans for Taibu and 2007 saw Taibu return in the Zimbabwean colours of red and black, but controversies always prevailed around him. He served a 10-match ban for taking part in the IPL and choosing to miss national duty. 

In 2011, when Zimbabwe was eagerly awaiting a Test call-up after a 6-year hiatus, Taibu was again at his explosive best, not with the willow but with his words. He came out and blasted the board for being inefficient.

What followed came as a surprise to the cricketing world, but would appear a planned move by Tatenda Taibu on closer perusal. It seems that he had wanted to open his mouth about the state of affairs of cricket in Zimbabwe for a long time, but in doing so would have to sacrifice his career. He announced his retirement from international cricket in 2012 aged only 29, thus ending a topsy-turvy career. He was quoted as saying at the time, “I just feel that my true calling now lies in doing the Lord’s work, and although I am fortunate and proud to have played for my country, the time has come for me to put my entire focus on that part of my life”.

Tatenda Taibu, the priest, at his residency

Despite controversies being the most prominent aspect of his 11 year long career, Taibu always showed great promise, becoming Zimbabwe’s fourth highest run getter in ODI’s with 3393 runs in 150 matches and 1546 runs in 28 Tests.

Although today Taibu seems content with his life, happy to be spreading the message of God at a local church, his career is a perfect example of how a bright cricketing future can be ruined because of troubled administration and political turmoil in the country.

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