CRICKET fans in Zimbabwe would have by now come across a leaked phone conversation between sacked chief selector Tatenda Taibu and interim captain Hamilton Masakadza, quite a fascinating and insightful exposé of affairs in the game — an entertaining tête-à-tête between two childhood friends who grew up to become household names in the country.
By Enock Muchinjo
The 35-minute audio — which begins with Taibu’s wife Loveness answering Masakadza’s call to her husband — is a mix of the serious administrative stuff, the frustration and anger, and some comic relief in between.
Taibu was in the United Kingdom, where he lives with his family, while Masakadza called from Zimbabwe. Switching between their native Shona language and English, Masakadza seemed more on a brain-picking exercise while Taibu’s downright contempt for Zimbabwe’s cricket administrators dominates the conversation.
“Ndimi mune mess yamunayo ku Zimbabwe iyi,(Zimbabwe is messy)” Taibu broke the silence after the opening exchanges, catechising Masakadza on the tense and volatile state-of-affairs in Zimbabwean cricket.
“Yeah… it’s a proper one hey,” replied Masakadza, who chuckled in typical manner as he would continuously do throughout the discussion.
The interchange between the former child prodigies of Zimbabwean cricket seemed to have taken place in April in the wreckage of Zimbabwe’s failure to qualify for the 2019 World Cup — which saw Taibu, coach Heath Streak and captain Graeme Cremer being sacked by the board.
“So you mean Doc isn’t taking your calls?” probed Masakadza in reference to ZC chairman Tavengwa Mukuhlani, nicknamed Doc because of his day job as a pharmacist.
“No he hasn’t. Kubva patakangodyiwa neUAE that was the last I communicated with him. Ndika tryer kufona pandakasvika kuEngland, then he didn’t answer. Ndikasenda mamessage and he didn’t respond, although he was online. Then he sent Faisal (Hasnain, former ZC chief executive) asking us to resign. I was one of few who resigned. Inini handidi zvinondinetsa (l don’t need problems). If I’m being asked to resign it means my services are no longer required. I was doing zvinhu (things) according to my conviction.”
While Taibu had officially been removed as the convener of selectors after the World Cup failure.
“From second game in UAE I wasn’t the convener of selectors,” he told Masakadza. “If selection was the problem (during the World Cup qualifiers), then how was it my fault? That’s probably the only question I need to ask, for my closure.”
Masakadza appeared to commiserate with the former Zimbabwe captain, who he said still had a lot to offer to the game.
“All that being said, Doc ngavasadaro (Doc must not behave that way). All the time he was the one who looked for you and you were doing a lot of things apart from selection. Even if they want to change you from selection, the stuff you were doing zvakawanda (many duties). For him not to communicate I don’t know how that works.” Taibu then launched into the ZC board. “You tell them kuti maproblems ari pakati, pakati nepakati, iwo havazvizivi nekuti havasi vanhu wecricket. “Izvo havasi kuda kunzwa nezvazvo zvese izvovo, havana kana basa nazvo. Nyaya yawo chaiyo neyekuti takadyiwa neUAE.(They did not understand cricket. All they cared about is that we were defeated by the UAE).
“Remember when they fired you paya-paya, issue yanga iri yekuti tadyiwa neAfghanistan. (The issue was that we had been defeated by Afghanistan). And we were higher. Pangoitika same thing. I said look Faisal, tisati tatanga maqualifiers, I’m seeing a reoccurrence of things that happened before. Ndikamupa example yetime yako naDav Whatmore (of your time and Dav Whatmore). Pangoitika the same thing. It really doesn’t work, they are ignoring things that work,” Taibu said in reference to the sacking of captain Masakadza and coach Dav Whatmore in 2016.
To which Masakadza concurred: “Process yacho yakareba (takes too long). It’s not just changing personnel.”
Taibu then recounted how he had clashed with some of the ZC directors during a World Cup qualification match against Nepal in Bulawayo.
“I was in the presidential enclosure with several board members, and, of course, we are not talking cricket because they just don’t know the game,” said Taibu.
“And I don’t lower my standards to try to get to their level of understanding the game because most of them just don’t know nothing about cricket. I shouted for the first time patakatamba (when we played) and said some things I should not have said. I said mukaramba musingatereri (if you don’t listen), we are going to end up like Kenya. You think kupfeka suit netie mouya kuzogara upstairs mupresidential enclosure zvinoshamisira (wearing suit and ties is something amazing).
Those were my words,” said Taibu, drawing laughter from Masakadza.
“I said vanhu vakawanda wanofunga the same about you. It’s just that inini handitye kudzingwa basa (l didn’t fear being fired). Munogona kundidzinga basa asi after a few years muchati Tatenda aitaura chokwadi mazviona zvakuitika (fire me but l tell the truth). But it will be too late. Saka ndakazosimuka ndakufamba ndakutoenda, one wacho akandibata ruoko zvikanzi mira tipedzerane. Ndikati I’m not prepared to sit here. And vanga wachitaura zvinyadzi, like raw bad language ye Shona. You know bad language ye Shona haidzokorereki. Ndozvavaitaura ipapo. (I decided to leave and one of them grabbed my hand, threatening me. They were shouting obscenities in vernacular — Shona, which I cannot reporoduce myself.)
“There were bad words, swear words. I asked Loveness to call me so that I could get away from them.” And then this week in further discussion with this newspaper, Taibu implored the Zimbabwe players to “treat themselves with dignity” and unite.
“Most of the time the way a person is treated is dependent on how they treat themselves,” Taibu said.
“A lot of players allow the ZC administration to treat them that way because they don’t treat themselves with dignity,” said Taibu. “The players don’t know their value.
A good example is when I said things what was deemed harsh and even when I said ZC was painting a house with no foundation. Let me tell you a fact. I was always, well, most of the times, getting my money on time. Most of the players were not getting theirs on time. Now, you would think because I was saying those so-called nasty things I would be the last to get paid. No no.
Because they knew you could not treat me in a certain way. If players only knew their worth and treat themselves with respect they will be treated with respect. Unfortunately most of the players allow themselves to be treated the way they are being treated.”