Zimbabwean Cricket -- Not 'Taylor'-Made for Greatness
Zimbabwe's Brendan Taylor, who has 5120 runs in 166 ODIs, played his last international game against India on Saturday as he is migrating with his family to Nottingham in England to play County cricket.
Zimbabwe are out of the World Cup and they are all set to lose one of their better players, yet again. Brendan Taylor, Zimbabwe's third highest run-getter in ODIs, has bid goodbye to international cricket and will move to England to play for Nottinghamshire.
It doesn't come as a surprise to the cricket world anymore. The trend of quality Zimbabwean players quitting international cricket has been going on for some time -- Andy Flower, Grant Flower, Henry Olonga, Neil Johnson, Murray Goodwin -- the list is pretty big. (Emotional Brendan Taylor Ready to Move on)
Zimbabwe have never been a 'big' team but always a competitive one. Back in the nineties, a team comprising of the Flower brothers, Alistair Campbell, Heath Streak, Goodwin, Johnson and Guy Whittal often gave the 'big boys' quite a scare. At times, they even toppled them. (Taylor Scripts Swansong)
Zimbabwe were major giant-killers and by the turn of the millennium, had beaten every other Test playing nation at the ODI level. In 1999 and 2003 World Cups, they even made it to the Super-Six stages.
With the inclusion of Mark Vermeulen, Tatenda Taibu and Andy Blignaught, they even consolidated their position in the Test arena in the beginning of the Noughties. (Taylor Looks Forward to New Challenge)
Then politics took over and things fell apart. The political scenario of the country took a nosedive and the cricket team went into a tailspin. Players fled the country and Zimbabwe struggled to put 11-men on the field.
Brendan Taylor got caught into that commotion and now after 11-years of serving the country, he's signed the Kolpak agreement with Nottinghamshire.
Not many realise it but Taylor has been a massive player for Zimbabwe. A student of Iain Campbell, the father of Zimbabwean Test cricketer Alistair Campbell, Taylor was the lynchpin around whom the red and gold army revolved.
He made his debut at a time when many of the country's leading players rebelled and made themselves unavailable to represent the side. As a result, many young players were prematurely brought into the team to make up the numbers but Taylor was a genuine talent. In the age-group levels, Taylor was a regular and played in two Under-19 World Cups. He made his first-class debut for Mashonaland A at the age of 15.
He shot to prominence by scoring 200 not out in the B Division of the Logan Cup and in two years' time, Taylor was handed his debut against Sri Lanka in 2003-04. He not only became a mainstay for the team with the bat, but also took over the wicket-keeping responsibilities from Tatenda Taibu.
His first big performance though came in the 2007 World T20 when he helped Zimbabwe pull off an upset over Australia.
Although, his Test career could never take off, his ODI performances made him one of the better wicket-keeping batsmen around the world. Often compared with the great Andy Flower, Taylor actually had more impact on the team than the left-handed legend.
Playing alongside a much weaker team, Taylor often would run out of partners or would end up in the losing side even after a commendable personal contribution. Example, the match against India at Auckland on Saturday. He may be third in the run scoring list but in the ODIs, Taylor has three more hundreds than Flower.
Taylor's act of deserting his national side might sound selfish and look 'unpatriotic' but really, in a country like Zimbabwe, he wasn't left with much choice.
"I think all players tend to try and maximise a little bit. When you've got kids at home, you want to try and make sure they've got the best sort of upbringing that you can give them. That all sort of prompted the decision. It's a three-year decision", said Taylor explaining his decision.
Cricket can only do so much but then there's a family life to take care of and Taylor won't be the last one to give in.
For some time now, things have not been happy for Zimbabwean cricket. They may have been a regular in the World Cup but have failed to shed their 'underdog' label for years now. With the departure of Taylor, the road became even steeper.
In most countries, the youngsters follow the lead of their heroes and role models. India's Virat Kohli followed the footsteps of Sachin Tendulkar, while Australia's Steve Smith looked upto Steve Waugh but the legacy of Zimbabwean greats isn't a one that's 'Taylor'-made for their youngsters to achieve greatness!
Brendan Taylor - Statistically Speaking
- Brendan Taylor became the first Zimbabwean and the ninth batsman to post back to back centuries in World Cup matches. Taylor has joined Mark Waugh, Rahul Dravid, Saeed Anwar, Ricky Ponting, Matthew Hayden, Abraham de Villiers, Mahmudullah and Kumar Sangakkara (four).
- Brendan Taylor has become the first Zimbabwean batsman to aggregate 400 in a single edition of the World Cup - his tally being 433 at an average of 72.16 in six innings, including two hundreds and a fifty. The previous highest was by Neil Johnson - 367 (ave.52.42) in eight innings in 1999.
- Taylor (690 at an average of 46.00 in 15 matches) has overtaken Dave Houghton's tally of 567 (ave.29.84) in 20 matches. He is now second in the list of batsmen with most runs for Zimbabwe in World Cups. Andy Flower tops the charts with 815 runs at an average of 32.60 in 30 matches.
- For the first time in World Cups, Taylor has posted three successive innings of fifty-plus - the sequence being 50 vs Pakistan at Brisbane on March 1, 121 vs Ireland at Hobart on March 7 and 138 vs India at Auckland on March 14.
- Taylor's 138 is the third highest innings in World Cup - the first two being Craig Wishart's 172 not out vs Namibia at Harare on February 10, 2003 and Dave Houghton's 142 vs New Zealand at Hyderabad on October 10, 1987.
- In all, Taylor has registered two hundreds and three fifties in World Cups.
- Taylor (5258) has overtaken Alistair Campbell's tally of 5185 and is now third in the list of most run-getters for Zimbabwe in ODIs - the top two being Andy Flower (6786) and Grant Flower (6571).
- Taylor is the fifth Zimbabwean batsman to post a World Cup hundred and the only one to hit two centuries - the four others being David Houghton, Andy Flower, Neil Johnson and Craig Wishart.
(With inputs from Rajesh Kumar)