If you were a cricket fan growing up in the early Noughties, the name Tatenda Taibu would be very familiar. He shot to prominence by becoming the youngest Test cricket captain in history but surprisingly stepped away from the game in 2012 to focus on contributions to the Church.
Taibu, recently made a comeback to professional Cricket in December 2018, suiting up for Badureliya Sports Club in the Sri Lankan First Class League.
Having amassed more than 5000 international runs for Zimbabwe, Taibu also acted as the Convener of selectors for Zimbabwe Cricket from 2016, a post he held until the World Cup Qualifiers in 2018 wherein after Zimbabwe’s disappointing run in the qualifiers, he was asked to step down from his position.
CricWizz correspondent, Ayaktan Roy, got the chance to speak to Taibu regarding various issues, such as his sudden comeback to professional cricket, his future plans, and most importantly his take on the present dire situation of Zimbabwe Cricket. Read the full interview below:
Q: You had debuted for the national team at the age of 18 and retired at the age of 29. What was the main reason for your early retirement? Was it due to the fact that you were physically exhausted or were looking for some kind of jobs for your family’s sustainability since we know the economic condition in Zimbabwe is in a pretty dire state? Or was it something else?
A: Yes, I did retire early…and the full story should…well, the people will get to know the full story once it comes out in the autobiography that’s coming out in April…the weekend…the Easter weekend April…so that’s when my autobiography is coming out…so the full reason will come out then…umm, but to answer the question…it was…I was on a spiritual journey and everything else went ahead to die for me to be able to get answers that I was seeking for.
Q: Considering you were away from the game for a good six and a half years, and during this time you explored other opportunities, what/who was the primary motivator or reason for you to get back on the pitch? Also, what aspects of the game did you miss while you were away from it?
A: I was away from the game; however, you know fitness wise and physically I am still fit and I kept myself fit…I did not…not necessarily that I explored other avenues…I just continued with the avenues that I had already…my real estate and the church work…so, I did not explore new avenues. And my reason of getting back was mainly triggered by my son who has taken an interest in the sport, and whom I never really told or explained what I had achieved in this (cricket) and that he started to get a lot (about me) from his friends…and friends really…So my son started taking a bit of an interest in the sport and I never really brought cricket home when I played…and when he was still…and when he was still young…and now that he has people to talk about me, and you know when people greet me…and he wonders…he used to wonder why it is like that because I never really told him or never really explained how popular I was…umm so I just wanted to show him that his dad could still play the game…I missed the competitive edge and…you know…by this I mean not competing against others but the competition against myself because whenever I played it was more of a competition against myself than against opposition…so…and I always used to set myself goals and targets and wanted to achieve those…and I wanted to see…umm…If I could still do it at the age of 35.
Q: Did you face any major challenges whilst getting back to playing cricket? Fitness wise or contract wise or any other challenges that you might want to share with us?
A: Well, fitness wise I don’t think I had any challenges…I probably would rate myself as …one of the…you know the fittest cricketers around…umm…and I did not struggle striking the cricket ball…you know…umm…striking and spending a bit of time at the crease…the only thing that I struggled with is converting the 40’s into 100’s…umm…you know so…that’s one thing I must concentrate on…but getting back on the field and keeping for long overs wasn’t much of a problem.
Q: How did the Sri Lankan offer come your way?
A: The Sri Lankan offer came…umm…about from a friend of mine…whom I consider a brother more than a friend…Roshan Abeysinghe…he…well, I told him that…well I did call him and expressed my interest to play first-class cricket again and he put me in touch with few people and that’s how my contact came through and I got attached to Badureliya Cricket Club (Badureliya Sports Club)…and was welcomed really well and…you know… gelled with the team quite easily and…yeah, I liked the guys that I got in touch with.
Q: Everyone is well aware of the 2003-04 Zimbabwean Cricket crisis, which led many players to seek opportunities in foreign countries. Do you think the present crisis in Zimbabwe cricket is still due to the 2003-04 crisis or is it for something else?
A: Well, I think the events in 2003-04…umm…the events that started…umm…you know…Zimbabwe Cricket being the way it is now, unfortunately, …it will take a lot to bring it to the glory days and I hope they manage to do that.
Q: Is the Zimbabwe Cricket board doing nothing to preserve these players and the sport in the country? Please comment. Further, tell us your views as to how the ICC and other rich boards such as the BCCI, CA, PCB, and the CSA should help the ZC in preserving the sport that is dying at a rapid speed in the country.
A: I think the onus still remains on Zimbabwe Cricket to sort out…you know…the problems that are there in Zimbabwe because if ICC gets involved, that means the ICC has got to get involved in all the other boards as well…and they must with other boards then…because there are problems in other boards…you know…different to the problems that may be in Zimbabwe…but…you know…almost all boards have got…you know…several negative factors…so ICC really can’t get involved much…it has to be something that Zimbabwe can sort out themselves…and other boards getting involved…I am not so sure about that…
Q: What are the real issues that has plagued the sport in the country? How do you feel Zimbabwe will get back to their golden days?
A: In my humble view…I think the main factor is…has been…and I don’t know if it still is…but the main factor for me is the mismanagement of funds…yes, a lot of people say there is a political interference which politics will always take part in any sports governance…however for me the biggest issue has been the mismanagement of funds.
Q: You were most recently associated with Zimbabwe Cricket, acting as a Convenor of selectors, although there were reports out in the media that you were the sole selector for the board, working alongside Zimbabwean legend and former captain, Heath Streak who was the head coach of the national team. After both of your appointment, the team actually started to perform better when they won an ODI series in Sri Lanka and almost won a one-off home Test series against Sri Lanka. Your team further performed well in the 2018 Cricket World Cup Qualifiers too, however, due to rain your team missed the chance to play in the finals for a single point, and immediately you, along with Head coach Streak and skipper Graeme Cremer were asked to resign. What are your views regarding this? Do you think the board’s decision to move on was actually a step forward and not two steps backwards?
A: Look, when we…Streak and I got involved, Streak and I have got a good understanding…we have played together…he was captain when I was vice-captain, I was captain when he was vice-captain so we had good understanding…and the team was starting to play well…you know the belief…the crowds and the players were starting to get back…and we had record crowds even for the qualifiers…but you just need to look at the team now and look at how things have progressed since we left and I think you will get the answers from that…Look I think with anything, the aftermath will always tell the story whether it’s a right decision to anything or wrong decision to anything…so I just wanted to…you know to keep it as wherever you see Zimbabwe Cricket going now…is because of the decisions they have taken…it’s like in life in general…what I will be in 5years from today is determined by the decisions that I make today…so that’s the same thing with Zimbabwe Cricket…what Zimbabwe Cricket is going to be is determined by the decisions that they are making today.
Q: After the conclusion of the Sri Lankan First-Class season, where can we expect to see you pad-up again?
A: I am in the UK after Sri Lanka I am in the UK…I’ve got a contract already as a player-coach for Formby Cricket Club, so that’s where I am going to play…will be playing…during this season and I’m looking forward to it.
Q: You gave a pretty decent performance in the Sri Lankan first-class league. So, looking at that, do you think you are ready to be back in the national set-up?
I think a lot of people have…umm…you know…in looking at the Sri Lankan stint…I think a lot of people have been congratulating me and saying that I have played well, probably because they…they didn’t expect me to…you know to be able to find my feet…you know most people didn’t expect me to find my feet at that level…umm…however, according to my standards I think I was pretty average…you know because…I should have turned at least three or four forties into hundreds and if I had done that then I would have said that I had a successful stint…the keeping was good though…I really enjoyed the keeping, I just got back from where I left. And the question about playing…look, a lot of people have asked me that question…and because one may not know the future…so, you can’t predict such things, and so we will see…we will see as the time goes if it’s something that I would like to do or something that I won’t look into doing.
Q: There are multiple T20 leagues round the world right now. Looking at the fact that you are back in professional cricket, have you considered playing in one of them?
A: Yes, I do…I do realize that there are a lot of T20 leagues around the world…you know however, I do also realize that no one is prepared to take a risk with a player who they have not seen, you know, for a long time…so before I start thinking about getting involved in such leagues…I’ve got to show…you know the world that I still can put the bat to ball and also put glove to ball…I’m sure few big innings will come my way and then I will start looking at that if I feel led to go that route.
Q: Being a prominent wicket-keeper batsman yourself, what is your take on the upcoming crop of wicket-keeper batsmen like Quinton de Kock, Tom Latham, Niroshan Dickwella and Rishabh Pant? Also, whom would you rate the best amongst them?
A: I think all four wicket-keeper batsmen that you have mentioned are really good players from the little that I have watched…and have their different strengths and very exciting…you know…to watch and all have done well for their countries…it’s for me, it has always been hard to single out someone to say…you know…that this one is the best of the group, it’s very difficult…and because you have to consider lots of aspects and for a person who hasn’t watched too much about them, it would be very very difficult to single…to pinpoint one…because they all…you have to consider also that they are very different players…one from another too.
Q: The 2019 World Cup has been limited to a 10-team affair. Now even certain full-member teams aren’t getting a chance to be part of the World Cup, let alone the Associate Nations. Don’t you think this is a big blow to Cricket’s Globalisation?
A: Well, there are two aspects of looking at this issue that is been debated over for many years now…if you are looking to globalize the sport, then yes…it will be the wrong way to go about it….but, if you are looking to maximize the earnings which I think the ICC has decided to…which I think is the route that the ICC has taken in terms of Television Rights…then that will be the route to go…so to answer your question…I think you are talking more on globalizing the sport…so in terms of that a Ten team World Cup, won’t be the right way to go.
Q: Whom do you think are the favorites to lift the 2019 Cricket World Cup? Also, which team/teams do you think will be the dark horse/horses in this World Cup?
A: I think…ummm…this one is a very tricky one…because they are…you know they…because of where its being played…of course England is going to have a home advantage…the Asian countries have been playing better in general than the Western countries…but its being played in England, so that may make it a bit tricky…so it’s very difficult to be able to tell which one will be the favourite and in terms of the dark horses…there really won’t be any dark horses in this because all the ten teams that are there are really-really good teams.
Q: What message do you want to give to the kids round the world who want to be a successful cricketer just like you?
A: The 3 D’s: Dedication, Determination, and Discipline. First of all, one has to be dedicated to whatever, you know, you want to do in life, so once you get that dedication then its easy to follow the goals that you set yourself…that you set for yourself. And once you have set those goals, you’ve got to be determined to get them and have the right discipline to be able to get those goals that you set for yourself because you set the goals right on the stage of dedication…because you are dedicated to this sport or you are dedicated to this thing that you want to do and then you carry on from there.