Taibu speaks out

Taibu was introduced together with other youngsters, Henno Prinsloo and Nicolas Scholtz, who kept the run rate ticking with a 54-run partnership.

“I left my country in 2005 after making a statement that I won’t play for Zimbabwe until things are sorted out in cricket and I still maintain that, hence the reason why I am in Namibia”, he told The Southern Times.

With Limpopo trying to maintain the run rate after a brisk start, the visitors began to lose wickets and batting at number three, Taibu made them pay with a satisfactory 21 runs, on his debut.

Taibu’s appearance in the Namibian squad squashed speculations of him trying to forge a career in South Africa.

“After announcing my decision to stop playing for the national team, I started getting calls from all over, including Europe and South Africa. I decided to become involved with a club in South Africa, but whilst I was still studying the contents of their offer, I made a phone call to inquire the consequences in the event of my becoming interested in playing for the South African national team. The contract wanted me to play for them for five years, of which by then I would be eligible to play for their national team. I was shocked to read in the papers that I had demanded citizenship,” said Taibu.

Discussions with Namibia have been ongoing for a couple of weeks and a few days ago the final parts of the agreement were confirmed. “He will be with our squad for the remainder of the season. It is something we have been discussing for a while and Tatenda seems very excited by the situation,” Francois Erasmus, president of the Namibia Cricket Board, said.

Taibu’s wife, Loveness and son, Tatenda (jnr) are expected to be in Namibia this week as part of the agreement that he has made with the NCB. “I chose Namibia because I could not live with all the negative media attention that was directed at me. Despite the fact that Namibia is still in an amateur phase where people are not paid to play, this country is keen to learn everything on cricket.”

However, any thoughts of an international return will still have to wait. Erasmus confirmed that it would take five years of living in Namibia for the 23-year-old to qualify to play international tournaments. “Or else he will remain playing provincial cricket.”

The cricketer said he is yet to agree on a long-term deal with Namibia. “I am only here for six months and I have told the board here that I want to keep my options open because if boardroom politics change within cricket administration in Zimbabwe, I would still want to play for my country.”

Erasmus said Taibu had asked for two months of consultations before he can enter into long-term agreements “since we had gone as far as proposing citizenship status for him, because we cannot afford to lose such a great player with natural leadership skills”.

Namibia is part of the SAA Provincial Cup as an invitational side so the same qualification rules do not apply, meaning Taibu is eligible to slot straight into the team, a situation that has been agreed by Cricket South Africa. For the Zimbabwean, playing first class cricket in Namibia is better than club cricket, “as long as I play my cricket”.

The right-handed batsman, who walked away from an international game in Zimbabwe last November, spent the whole summer playing club cricket at Lashings in England. He had played in Bangladesh and was expected to sign for South African franchise sides Cape Cobras or Warriors before his about-turn. His Test debut was in 2001, when as a 17-year-old he made his mark against the West Indies in Bulawayo.

According to Taibu, the Zimbabwe Cricket (ZC) owes him a year’s salary. “I did not have a problem with either (coaches) Phil Simmons or Kevin Curran. I only preferred Phil to Kevin and that’s natural. I am a professional; I can work with anyone as long as it is in cricket. So it was not a coaching issue. I did not have problems with Themba Mliswa as mentioned in some media. I even spoke to some of these people before flying to Windhoek. My problem was with the system. There were disheartening boardroom politics. I did not like a situation where youngsters coming through the ranks play and do not get paid, so I tried to stand for them. I am here because the older guys stood up for me when I was also coming through the ranks. I wanted people to understand that it was not an issue of race or tribe, but boardroom mismanagement.”

Nicknamed Tibbly, Taibu is a throwback to the traditional style of wicket-keeping and was named Zimbabwe vice-captain in 2003 on the eve of his team’s tour of England. He became one of Zimbabwe’s few bright spots at the 2003 World Cup with a penchant for cross-batted stroke. In 2004, he was appointed captain following the resignation of Heath Streak.

Long earmarked as the natural successor to Zimbabwe’s all-time great Andy Flower, Taibu led a woefully inexperienced Zimbabwe side in the face of successive defeats and succumbed to pressure after a player revolt in the autumn of 2005.

A home-made product of Zimbabwe’s youth policy and the country’s first black captain, Taibu resigned in November 2005 amid rancour.

His departure was heavily felt and Erasmus says Namibia has made a catch.

“He is a world class wicketkeeper-batsman, and will definitely help us make our mark in cricket,” enthused Erasmus.

October 2006
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