By FARAI SHOKO
Brendan Taylor, popularly known as BT, has been Zimbabwe’s best talent of this generation. Tatenda Taibu’s potential can make this debatable. However, with Taibu having been forced out of the game at a very young age for political reasons, that debate remains speculative. BT is second, to the great Andy Flower (Andy), on Zimbabwe’s highest ODI run scorers of all time. He has about a hundred runs less than Flower and a thousand runs more than Masakadza. He batted fewer innings than both. Interestingly, BT retains Zimbabwe’s superior ODI batting average of all time. Overall, BT is the third (behind Andy and his brother Grant) the highest run scorer across all formats, just sixty-two runs short of the ten thousand marks. Whilst it is hard to compare Andy and BT, it is disingenuous to ignore the facts and figures. BT has also featured for Nottinghamshire in the prestigious county cricket, where he became the club’s first batsman to score centuries in his first two matches. To understand the context of this prelude, please keep reading!
As I write this piece, I am extremely disgusted at the omission of BT’s retirement, and subsequent tribute, by Zimbabwe Cricket (ZC). When Hamilton Masakadza and Elton Chigumbura retired, ZC shared very colorful tributes as they announced the news to the world via their social media. ZC, almost instantly, tweeted (respectively):
“At the age of 17 years and 354 days, Hamilton Masakadza scored 119 against the West Indies to become the youngest player in the world to make a century on Test debut. He bows out having made 38 Test, 209 ODI and 62 T20I appearances @ZimCricketv #ThankYouHami #Legend”.
Fair enough. Just like any cricket stakeholder would agree, there is no denying that Masakadza and Chigumbura were assets to the game. At least, as players. And the scripts in the tweets above are near-perfect. However, it is undeniable that their cricketing credentials fall below those of BT. Possibly, by a mile.
I first met BT in the late 90s when my primary school coach, Julian Ndlovu, shared his admiration of him and asked me to accompany him as he wanted to have a chat. When my coach asked him what his secret to consistency was, he replied briefly, yet confidently;
“Concentration. Ball by ball”. He was probably 11 then. I remember this vividly because coach Juls (as we used to call him) knocked that statement into my head several times after that. This was during an annual cricket festival held for primary school cricket players at Prince Edward School. At the end of the festival, a Zimbabwe National Team U/13 would be selected. As you would expect, BT made the side. Months later, I was to train with him on a weekly basis as part of the now defunct “Squads of Excellence”. Not that I would expect him to remember me, but there is an important element to this story. BT has been playing for a national side since the day I knew him, to date. That is over two decades of dedicated sporting service to his country. This is not basic representation. Most of the time he would be the most valuable member of those squads. Under no circumstances must anyone possess the privilege to omit his legacy.
It is not my intention to draw parallels, but for exposing the ridiculousness of this behavior, there is a need to outline certain factors. While Masakadza had an illustrious senior career, he never represented a national side until Under-16 level. Although BT is much younger, he was already serving his country when Masakadza made his debut with a national side. However, ZC, by acts of commission and omission, gives the impression that BT’s stint as a Zimbabwean cricketer was trivial.
If ZC is going to belittle a legend like BT, it would be criminal for the cricket community to remain silent. BT is so much of an icon that the International Cricket Council has already shared a tribute on their social media, celebrating his “signature shot”. The ICC website also posted an article on BT’s retirement. On the contrary, besides Yvonne Mangunda’s appointment, the ZC website is basically a results notice board. How it could omit the retirement of a legend like BT is astonishing, to use printable words. The quality, or lack thereof, of the ZC website is a sad story for another day.
The important question would be “WHY WOULD ZC EMBARRASS ITSELF LIKE THIS?”. In some social spheres, commentators feel that this act does not give a good look from a racial perspective. However, my observation is that ZC only values Highfield-bred or Takashinga adopted players and officials. Nothing to do with race. Everyone else does not matter. Your contribution to the game does not matter. Your love for the game does not matter. Your talent does not matter. It is no surprise that every non-white national team captain has been Highfield born, bred and Takashinga adopted. It is no surprise that anyone (literally) who has played for Takashinga in this generation has been part of the national team squad in some capacity. I could mention at least five average players who were squeezed into the national at some point. For no other reason, except that they were Highfield born or Takashinga adopted. I don’t expect ZC to change, however, remaining silent would be criminal on my part.
Farai Shoko is an independent opinion columnist and avid cricketer who writes in his own capacity. His views do not, in any way, represent those of Sports Rifle 724.