Exclusive: Death threats, kidnap attempt... the journey of Tatenda Taibu
Liverpool: Tatenda Taibu believes in god and goodness for all. He is a 'Keeper Of Faith', as the title of his autobiography makes known. From being the youngest Test captain in cricket history to receiving death threats in Zimbabwe and living in exile and now at peace in Liverpool, Taibu has seen it all. In between all this, he managed 28 Tests, 150 ODIs and 17 T20Is for Zimbabwe.
On a windy, pleasant Thursday afternoon at the Formby Cricket Club (Liverpool), Taibu was the centre of attraction. It was a charity match between Taibu XI and Cricx XI to promote his book with friends from Zimbabwe cricket and a few from Formby.
In a candid chat with Sportskeeda, Taibu opened up on his roller-coaster ride from Zimbabwe to Liverpool spanning over 15 years.
How difficult was it for you to overcome all the mental trauma, the death threats, leaving your home country and living in exile?
As a 21-year-old, (if) you get the death threats I got, it is devastating. Very disappointing, but I knew that I had to continue with life and to a great extent I managed to do that. However, it's probably the most difficult times I have ever had and I wouldn't wish that for someone else.
When did you realise that it was time for you to move on from Zimbabwe?
It was after the time that my wife (Loveness) almost got kidnapped. It was difficult for me... but you start to put life into perspective and say if my wife loses her life or I lose it, is it really worth it? And then because of that we decided, we would leave.
What was the most frightening thing that had happened to you in Zimbabwe?
It's probably the last thing (that happened), when my wife almost got kidnapped -- that was quite scary. I had been shown pictures of dead people (during the meeting with one of the ministers) but it can't be compared to when Loveness (wife) almost got kidnapped.
What was your biggest concern in Zimbabwe? Politics in the country or misappropriation of funds in Zimbabwe Cricket?
It was more about misappropriation of funds than the politics. With Henry Olonga and Andy Flower, it was more about politics. But with me, it was about misappropriation of funds.
How difficult is it for a cricketer from Zimbabwe to focus on cricket on the field when there is a lot going on behind the scenes?
The top players are paid properly. However, the rest of the players are the ones who were not paid properly. But a team is not made up of two or three players. When you hear people saying that someone from Zimbabwe has done well... they have got to be respected because there are lots of issues that Zimbabwean cricketers go through that a lot of players from other countries don't go through. And it's very difficult go onto the cricket pitch when you have got what I call 'car park' issues, things that indirectly affect players performances.
What do you guys discuss when you see cricketers from top countries get paid so much playing cricket, the big bucks in IPL auctions and you guys have to really fight for it?
Well, over the years, it has been the story in Zimbabwe. It's a recurring story over the years that players are not really looked after as well as the players in other countries. If you are taking percentages, I think other boards get bigger percentage than what our Zimbabwean players get. Unfortunately, it is like that. It has been like that for years. We know that if our cricket governance does not improve, then this will always be there.
You were the national convenor of selectors in 2018. How did you react when you first heard of Brendan Taylor signing a Kolpak deal and then his comeback into the team?
When he first signed the Kolpak deal, I understood where he was coming from. I know the system well. And then when he got back, that was me. It was nice for me to play a part for a friend to be able to make a comeback and play for his country again.
You were part of the first IPL representing KKR. Why do you think there are lesser number of cricketers playing in the IPL from associate nations? Afghanistan players have made it to IPL but still...
Well I think the reason is because most of the selection that's been done is based on current form. Whoever is playing on TV, are the ones that are looked at. I have seen several situations where there is a player who has just done well just before the IPL season and he gets a big contract and maybe plays the first two games and is not be seen for the rest of the tournament. So, that's a decision (based on) current form and not a lot of decisions are made on potential.
Since the 1983 World Cup, this is the first time Zimbabwe aren't part of the World Cup? How disheartening is it for you?
It is... look at the end of the day I'm a Zimbabwean. I would have loved to see Zimbabwe being part of the biggest cricket stage. Unfortunately, they are not part of it and it is disappointing.
In recent times, India have sent their second string sides when they tour Zimbabwe. From Zimbabwe cricket's point of view, how do you see it? Do you think the presence of a Virat Kohli maybe would help create some interest back home?
There are two ways to look at it. On one side, if they come to support Zimbabwe (and) Zimbabwe does generate a lot of money, is that money going to be used by our own administrators for the good of the game? (But if) You look at the other side, if no one supports Zimbabwe cricket, then cricket simply dies. So, that's the two options that I'm stuck in between because as long as the governance of the sport in the country is bad, we can't expect anything better, we can't expect our players to play well. Unfortunately, that's the truth that's there on the table.
If you were to ask one question to MS Dhoni, what would it be?
As a keeper to another keeper, I would ask... sometimes he doesn't have his hands together but he manages to catch the ball cleanly whereas normally you would want to see a keeper having both hands together. That's probably one thing that I would love to talk to him about.
What can one expect in the 'Keeper Of Faith' autobiography?
I have had so many good reviews about the autobiography from so many different people. There is something in it for cricket lovers, there is something in it for people who follow politics in Zimbabwe, there is something in it for just people who love reading books. I have had so many people say that autobiographies are boring because they go too technical on the details of the sport.
However, my autobiography is not the same. The cricket part is there but it's not overriding the whole thing and neither is the politics the thing that's ruling the book. But it's all really balanced. I have had several people that have read it from different walks of life and the common thing that people have said is, 'when took the book to read, I wasn't able to put it down'. So that's nice to hear.
Finally, your message for Zimbabwe cricket?
Make sure the sport doesn't die in the country. A lot of people have put so many hours to get Zimbabwe cricket get to where it is now. It is so sad to see the sport dying in the country.