The Zimbabwean caged lion waits

2014-08-15 00:00

ZIMBABWE’S Test cricket captain Brendan Taylor must be the sport’s biggest enigma. Still only 28, his journey in the game is one of frustration to the sport’s followers and always a cause to think of what could have been.

It would be fair to say he has been dealt a cruel blow in representing Zimbabwe. If he were born in any other cricket-playing nation, there is no doubt he would boast a record of more that just 20 Test matches, 150 ODIs and 26 T20s.

In the current Zimbabwe Test side, he stands head and shoulders above his 10 team-mates and it is clear to see the fortunes of the team depend on what he achieves with bat in hand.

This was the case in the one-off Test match against South Africa in Harare earlier this week. A fine 93 in the first innings from Taylor saw his team post a score beyond 250 which, by Zimbabwean standards, deserves credit. In the second innings, he only managed five and the batting had that all-too-familiar look of weakness and fallibility.

One can only hope and pray Taylor produces what he is capable of in the upcoming three one-dayers against the Proteas and the triangular beyond that when Australia come on their African safari.

But back to Taylor. He has had a noteworthy career and was a cricket prodigy from his teenage years.

When Zimbabwe cricket fell off the rails in 2003/04 with the departure of the so-called “rebel” players — remember Andy Flower and Henry Olanga’s black armband protest against the destruction of democracy in their country at the 2003 World Cup — the team was in tatters.

Taylor was fast-tracked into the national side at age 18 for a home series against Sri Lanka. The innocent-faced teenager made 19 and four in his debut innings, but his approach has matured in the past 10 years. His face has hardened and he looks tough. It has all fallen into place as he plays his cricket tough as well. He fights for his cause — in most instances a one-way ticket to defeat — making the opposition sweat for his wicket. You play good cricket in a match involving Taylor, calling on all your skill and expertise.

He has played in two U19 World Cups and made his First Class debut for Mashonaland when 15. The following year he reached 200* in the the Logan Cup B division.

It was by no means easy for him at the highest level and it took a while for him to settle and back himself to succeed at the pinnacle of the game. He took over the ’keeping duties when Tatenda Taibu departed and opened the batting before dropping down to where he slots in these days, at four or five.

He likes to attack — in many instances his downfall — but since taking over the Test captaincy in June 2011, his batting has blossomed.

He scored four centuries in his first seven Tests as skipper, plus a ton in both innings against Bangladesh last year, the only Zimbabwean to achieve this to date.

With Test cricket opportunities few and far between for Zimbabwe, Taylor conjures up an image of a caged lion, frustrated at being locked up, pacing impatiently up and down the wire. He needs to play more cricket.

There would be a process involved and maybe it would be too prolonged to make anything of it, but surely Taylor should make himself available to play for one of the South African franchises? He would be a valuable asset and get to play four-day, one-day and T20 matches in a highly competitive environment.

It is a thought and he could be worth an approach. He would be a solid investment and taste the fruits of winning a little more regularly.

After all, he is calling for more Tests for his country, more playing time with the world’s best. Someone should take him up on what he says and pour more nourishment on a cricket career that still has much to offer in growth and development.

Highlights:

In 2006, he hit 17 in the final over, including a six off the last ball with five runs needed, to beat Bangladesh, in Harare. He made 79*.

Made 60* against Australia in the ICC World Twenty20 at Newlands in 2007, leading Zimbabwe to a historic five-wicket win.

Had a great 2011 World Cup scoring 170 runs in six matches at 28,33 with a highest score of 80 and a strike rate of 87,17.

His trademark one-day shot is the uppercut to third man.

Brendan Taylor stats:

Tests 20 Runs 1358 HS 171 Avg 35.73 100x4 50x7

ODIs 150 Runs 4522 HS 145* Avg 33.74 S/Rate 72.16 100x6 50x28

T20s 26 Runs 594 HS 75* Avg 28.28 S/Rate 123.75 50x5

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