From Darlington Majonga in Chittagong, Bangladesh
HE is the man almost everyone here would love to hate, but cricket-crazy Bangladeshis simply find it hard to resist the genius of little
Tatenda Taibu, Zimbabwe’s young skipper who has become the mainstay of his team.
From Dhaka to Chittagong, Taibu has become a hero among the old and young, men and women, critics and journalists — never mind he has on numerous occasions stood between Bangladesh and glory in a series the hosts thought would be a stroll in the park against an inexperienced Zimbabwe.
Chittagong resident Ahmed Islam now calls himself Taibu, while most Bangladeshi journalists reckon the Zimbabwe player is a “lion-hearted captain we wish was ours”.
“He is a witty boy and I like the way he always oozes confidence,” said former Bangladesh coach and veteran scribe Jalal Chowdhury.
“I’m always positive,” Taibu said, as he put down the book he was reading while coach Phil Simmons took the rest of the squad through their paces at Bangabandhu Stadium in Dhaka.
The book was entitled Discover Your Destiny with the Monk Who Sold His Ferrari, a motivational novel by world best-selling author Robin Sharma about “the seven stages of self-awakening”.
“I read quite a lot of books, especially motivational works,” said Taibu as he straightened up in his chair for an exclusive interview with IndependentSport.
Zimbabwe lost a two-match Test series against Bangladesh 1-0, but not before Taibu had proved his prowess at the crease with an unbeaten 85 and 153 in the second drawn game everyone thought the visitors would win.
“It was disappointing to lose the Test series when we had a chance to win the second match because I think I had put the team in a good position,” Taibu said.
However, only three days after the Test disappointment, the young tourists had already put the Test setback at the back of their minds. Taibu led his charges to an historic win in 17 attempts since he took over the captaincy last May as Zimbabwe stunned Bangladesh by 22 runs in Dhaka in the first of five one-day internationals.
“I was pleased. I felt proud for the boys who have been putting so much in their game,” Taibu said. “A win was long overdue and I knew it was going to come after a few chances we had against Sri Lanka and England.”
If anyone thought the first win was a fluke, then a second victory at Chittagong’s MA Azziz Stadium in as many matches on Monday must have proved otherwise and left Taibu feeling his endurance and hard work were beginning to pay off.
Zimbabwe’s captain, wicketkeeper and key batsman at the same time, an organiser of the Sharjah tournament in the United Arab Emirates feels the responsibilities are too much for the 21-year-od Taibu. But not so, according to the talismanic player.
“People are allowed to say their views, but that’s not much of a problem for me. At times I feel yes it’s too much for me, but at the same time I say who am I to underestimate my capabilities and keep on praying to God to achieve my dreams,” said Taibu.
Taking over the reins from veteran all-rounder Heath Streak after an acrimonious row which saw 15 mainly first-team white players turning their backs on national duty, Taibu admits life has not been easy for him, especially leading a side made up of players barely out of their teens.
“There was a time when I started not to enjoy my game but I was lucky to have Phil Simmons who kept on telling me it had nothing to do with my technical abilities and that I had to remain focused,” revealed Taibu.
“It really crossed my mind to quit because it was frustrating to keep on playing knowing we were going to lose more than we were going to win, but my fiancée kept on telling me that giving up was not an option.”
Affectionately called “Tibba” by his colleagues, the little genius has quickly matured into a rock upon which Zimbabwe’s future in elite cricket hinges. But he still feels he hasn’t done enough yet in his career to be among the best in the world.
“There’s a lot I can improve on. I hear I’m now ranked the number 42 batsman in the world, but that’s not good enough. I’m only 21 and still have a long way to go for me to be able to walk into any team in the world,” said Taibu.
A 40-run loss to Bangladesh in the third one-dayer in Chittagong was disappointing for Taibu, but his spirit is still not dampened as Zimbabwe go into the fourth match in Dhaka tomorrow leading 2-1.
Besides an historic series win knocking on the door, Taibu already predicts better fortunes for Zimbabwe in the future.
“I think by the 2007 World Cup we would have gelled as a team. The future looks bright provided things keep working professionally from Zimbabwe Cricket to the last player,” the influential captain.
Plucked from Churchill High School as cover for then wicketkeeper Andy Flower for the West Indies tour in 2000 when he had not even played domestic first-class cricket, Taibu has not looked back since. It has taken more than natural talent for the hard-working skipper to come of age.