Tatenda Taibu: Boy turned into a man
Teen debuts, controversies, early retirements and reversals are traits often found in the subcontinent. Talent, brimming on the surface and visible in short bursts, defies age and experience as laurels pour in from all corners, predicting a bright future.
No sooner comes a revolt, threats by external influences and the decision to call it a day arrives as easily as a cross-batted squat followed by a scamper for a couple.
That has been the story of the 27-year-old former Zimbabwe captain Tatenda Taibu. Plucked from obscurity, still in his teens and having no first-class experience, Taibu’s ascent to not just captaincy, but as a senior member of the team, a reliable batsman, safe hands behind the stumps and a utility bowler has been astonishing. And a challenge not even subcontinent cricketers have had to face.
“Being asked to lead a side when I hadn’t even reached my peak was a huge challenge for me.” said Taibu as he prepared for a team meeting for a match that will decide Zimbabwe’s future in the 2011 World Cup. “It was tough, knowing that I was leading a side with seasoned campaigners but I, myself, was still to be in perfect order.”
When Taibu was drafted into the playing-eleven, he had Grant Flower, Alistair Campbell and Heath Streak to walk up to for advice, guidance and all things life. But for the first ten One-Day Internationals, it seemed that the youngster just was not cut out for it: 39 runs with four ducks.
“I had a poor start but I’m still learning. The good thing was that I had the likes of the Flower, Neil Johnson and Murray Goodwin around me so it was easier for me to learn quicker.”
With the mass exodus following the 2003 World Cup, the talent and experience vacuum created in Zimbabwe cricket has been impossible to fill. Although improvements are on the horizon - appointment of Streak, week-long stint with Brian Lara - Taibu still finds himself in the midst of average players unable to fulfil his dreams.
“We’ve been struggling to have the perfect blend of youth and experience. I’m only 27 and I’ve played the most matches here but I’m not going to get everything perfect for the new guys that come in. They won’t be able to learn as quickly as I did.
“We know we’ll collapse from time to time but I believe that when one door shuts, another opens. We lost the seniors, the experience but we gained young and agile players that have helped us tremendously in the field so that’s a plus point.”
Wicket-keeping, batting, bowling, planning, field changes are only a few things Taibu had to juggle in a single match. Now, despite being replaced as captain, his input is still valid. Life, and cricket, has taught him much but the right-hander, once part of the Kolkata Knight Riders, has opted to keep things simple.
“Before I’m a captain, I’m a batsman. In the field, I’m a wicket-keeper first. The only thing I need to concentrate on is that single delivery. I deal with it to the best of my ability and then start thinking about other things, that’s how I believe I can succeed.”