Zimbabwean cricketer in focus: Brendan Taylor - The special talent from Harare
Circa 2003-04: Zimbabwe cricket was in shambles. Lamenting the “death of democracy”, senior players Andy Flower and Henry Olonga staged their “black armband protest” during the 2003 World Cup, retiring from international cricket shortly after.
Captain Heath Streak’s removal from the side triggered a player revolt, with a majority of the remaining senior players quitting en masse in 2004. The result – a young and inexperienced side was sent on tough tours of Sri Lanka and Australia.
That squad was mercilessly pummelled by the cricketing heavyweights. But it also brought about the emergence of a raw 18-year-old talent who would go on to become the mainstay of the line-up in a very short period.
His name? Brendan Ross Murray Taylor – current captain of the Zimbabwean ODI and Test squads.
Born in Harare on February 6, 1986, the young man was nurtured in cricket by Iain Campbell, father of former captain and current chief selector Alistair Campbell at the Lilfordia primary school.
Having shown a natural aptitude for the game, the teenage Taylor was a regular choice for his school cricket team and also played in two U-19 World Cup tournaments. At 15, he made his first-class debut for Mashonaland A , and in the following year, he blasted an unbeaten 200 in the B Division of the Logan Cup.
This knock brought him to prominence, and he followed it up with many strong performances in the domestic season. At the age of 18, after the mass exodus of senior players, Taylor was fast-tracked into the national squad; he was considered one of the most promising lads in that youthful but inexperienced side. Their first outing was a series against Sri Lanka in 2003-04, where they were walloped by the former World Cup winners.
In 2006, at the age of 20, Taylor was once again selected into the national team despite an earlier suspension for disciplinary reasons and not having signed a contract with the cricket board. After Tatenda Taibu left the squad for a brief period, Taylor donned the wicket-keeping gloves, having had experience behind the stumps since primary school.
In August 2006, Bangladesh toured Zimbabwe, playing an ODI series. In the third match, with the series tied at 1-1, Zimbabwe needed 5 runs to win off the last ball, and Taylor was on strike. He slammed a huge six off Mashrafe Mortaza, giving his side the win and a 2-1 series lead. This showed his ability to remain calm under high pressure, and he was also noted for his ability to build an innings. At times though, he has been dismissed trying to play too aggressively – which did become a bit of a recurring habit.