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An interview with Tatenda Taibu

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Tatenda_Taibu_Zimbabwe_CricketTatenda Taibu made his debut for Zimbabwe in 2001, one month after his 18th birthday. Once the youngest test captain in the history of Test cricket, Taibu retired for the first time in 2005 to join a church to answer his religious calling. Then he returned to Zimbabwe cricket, first as a player and later in various capacities, including as the convener of selectors and head of the cricket academy.

Now 35, Taibu has made another comeback to professional cricket, this time in Sri Lanka.

Q. What made you return to cricket suddenly?

A. This is a decision I made while talking to my elder son, Tatenda Junior. He was talking about a cricket video they watched in school and was discussing a couple of players. He was really shocked to know how I either played with or against those players. When I was playing he was too little to understand all that and I always returned home only as a dad. He watched some of my cricket videos and started talking about how he wants to watch me playing and from there it all started.

Q. So he had no idea that you played cricket?

A. He had some idea as he used to be with me at some of the functions I attended as guest of honor. People recognized me as cricketer in places like England and Dubai, but he never asked me about it.

Q. How old is he? Does he play cricket?

A. He is 13. He plays cricket in his school and a club but he does not want to take up cricket seriously.

Q. How did the Sri Lankan offer come your way?

A. I knew Sri Lanka has a good first class structure. I needed a place where I know someone, as I had been away from cricket for six years and it would have been difficult to convince people that I can still play. I knew Roshan Abeysinghe, the popular Sri Lankan commentator and I spoke to Russell Arnold regarding my fitness. They connected me to a club and that's how Sri Lanka happened.

Q. What did you do in the last six years after your retirement?

A. I was a trustee in a Church. It is publicized that I became a preacher, which is wrong. I was also looking after the sick people and that gave me an opportunity to make an everlasting change in someone's life.

Q. You started playing international cricket very early. How was your experience?

A. I think everything was happening too fast for me to realize what I was achieving. I was a part of the U-19 World cup in 2000 in Sri Lanka, and then I was included in the national team when I was just 17. I only thought of my own performance. Even when I was made the vice-captain, and then became the youngest captain ever, I focused on what I wanted to achieve. I did not let anything else affect it.

Q. Was there any additional pressure of being the youngest Test captain?

A. By nature, I do not take much pressure. As I told you, my only focus was on what I wanted. I remember getting some advice from Peter Chingoka. I focus exactly on what I am doing at a moment. While fielding, I am a wicketkeeper before a captain. While batting, I am a batsman before anything else. So I think I could absorb the pressure well, as I focused on only one thing at a time. I guess that's why my batting record as captain is better than my record under others.

Q. When you got the captaincy, it was not a happy time for Zimbabwe cricket. How did you cope?

A. I did not realize what was going on around me. Leadership came to me naturally as I captained various sports teams in school. I did not care much about what people were saying from outside, hence it was not an extra burden for me.

Q. In that situation, what were your instructions to the team?

A. I wanted every player to realize their true potential. I was very close to all the players and I gave them the confidence that I was looking after their performance. At times it was not easy, as a fast bowler may not give his best in the last hour of the day’s play. I used to understand that and trust my players.

Q. Were you in touch with players who had left?

A. Absolutely. I am still in touch with many of them. There was no problem within the team. It was an issue with the board. Things were political too. Some shocking things happened like my wife almost got kidnapped. Some of the details will be part of my autobiography, that will be released in April.

Q. How can ICC support Zimbabwe Cricket?

A. I think ICC will not interfere with the internal running of Zimbabwe cricket. The cricket board has to deal with it since the issue is within the country. It is up to people in Zimbabwe to resolve the issues and sort out their differences.

Q. Are the other issues, like racism, reduced now?

A. Racism was there but it was never a big enough problem to impact cricket. It was portrayed like that because it was an easy way to catch people's emotion, so that angle was brought in. That was kind of running away from the real issue.

Q. What were or are the real issues?

A. The biggest issue for me is the infrastructure and lack of involvement of ex-cricketers in current Zimbabwe cricket. Most of the players from the glory days are abroad now and they cannot help much. Even the current players also look for opportunities outside post-retirement, as it is tough to be in the system and continue because of the basic structure.

Q. So how can Zimbabwe get back their glory days?

A. First they have to showcase cricket as a viable career option for youngsters, so that parents support their children. They need to create a fixed, sustainable cricket structure from the basics. Players should be given the best of facilities and training for preparation. Currently, after a certain point of time, young players look for jobs and thus we lose many potential players. There should be a proper structure that prepares players for the national setup.

Q. How was your experience as convener of selectors?

A. In 2015, I had a discussion with the new Zimbabwe cricket chairman and we talked about cricket. He wanted me to be the convener of the selectors which I was till 2018. It was very tough as I was the only selector. I was also heading the academy and looking into cricket development projects. Unfortunately, Zimbabwe failed to qualify for the 2019 World Cup and I was asked to resign.

Q. How was your coaching experience?

A. I really enjoyed that. I loved the fact some of them could go on to represent their country. I came up with this concept of coaching the boys outside Zimbabwe and took around 20 boys to the UK and organized around 15 matches for them. I do wish to resume coaching again in future.

Q. Do you want to continue your career as a professional cricketer in other leagues?

A. Yes, I have already got an offer from a premier league club in England and I will be there till September. I would like to continue to play for another five years if I get the right opportunity.

Q. How was your experience in the IPL?

A. Initially, I thought that I am not going to play because of the team we had. We had Gayle, McCullum, Ganguly, Ponting, Shoaib Akhtar, Salman Butt, Umar Gul and many more. Still I could manage to play 3 games and enjoyed it.

Q. Who is your current favorite player in international cricket?

A. I cannot say since I am still playing (laughs)... it is not easy as my friends are still playing and I may be biased towards them.

Q. Since you are still fit enough, why did you retire in 2012?

A. That time I got a religious call from my inside and had to choose between that call and cricket. Now I feel that I can get back to cricket and enjoy for few years.

Q. What will be God's message that you want to spread among young cricketers now?

A. It is important to be a good cricketer, but being a good human being is the most important thing in life. Life can be horrible if you are not a good human being.



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