By Robson Sharuko
Harare – Brendan Taylor and Kyle Jarvis’ first foreign adventure in the colours of the Zimbabwe national cricket team, after ending their self-imposed exile from the international game, will come in an historic inaugural four-day Boxing Day Test showdown against South Africa.
The duo ended years away from international cricket a few months ago when they committed themselves to representing their motherland again in what has been hailed as a major breakthrough by Zimbabwean cricket authorities who have put the strengthening of the national side on top of their priorities.
Taylor was the Zimbabwe captain, and the team’s best batsman, when he dropped a bombshell at the end of the 2015 lCC Cricket World Cup in Australia and New Zealand that he would be calling time on his international cricket career.
He bowed out in style, having scored back-to-back centuries in his final World Cup matches back then, against Ireland and global cricket powerhouse India to join an exclusive band of cricketers who have scaled those dizzy heights at this grand event.
Taylor signed for English county side Nottinghamshire on a Koplak deal and helped them win a major limited overs trophy before he decided to return home saying he couldn’t stand spending most of the year away from his young family which had remained in Harare.
The birth of his two kids this year, to bring the number of his children to four, was the turning point for Taylor who chose family ahead of his professional interests by deciding that the best way to deal with his situation was to return home to resume his international cricket career.
He marked his return by featuring in the one-off Test against New Zealand at Queens Sports Club in Bulawayo and has now been included in the Zimbabwe Test squad for the historic showdown against South Africa which gets underway on Boxing Day.
It’s the first four-day Test match after the International Cricket Council gave the format the go-ahead, on a trial basis, and all eyes of the cricket world will be on how this rare fixture between the two neighbours pans out.
Zimbabwe and South Africa are the only two Test-playing nations in Africa and plunge into the historic four-day match amid concern from various quarters that this version of the game wasn’t in the spirit of promoting Test Cricket and all that it has always stood for.
Former South African star, Lance “Zulu” Klusner, who is now the Zimbabwe assistant coach in charge of the team’s batting, has already expressed his reservations about four-day Test cricket.
However, from Boxing Day, the world will get a first glimpse of whether converting a traditional five-day sporting showdown into a four-day one is flawed as feared by some corners.
For the Zimbabweans, their plunge into uncharted territory couldn’t have come at a more appropriate time given that this year marks 25 years since they were allowed into the enclave where Test nations battle each other in cricket.
A year earlier the South Africans had been re-admitted into international cricket after the fall of the brutality of the apartheid system.
The gulf in class between Zimbabwe and South Africa is huge and the visitors will need to be at their very best, hope a lot of things go their way, for them even to last the distance or post an unlikely victory.
Jarvis will have to bowl like a demon and Taylor will have to play like the superstar that he is for the Chevrons even to force a draw.
The demolition of Bangladesh, the last country to tour South Africa for a Test showdown, tells its own story of the gap between the Proteas, who are on the top table of Test cricket, and the lightweights in this special group.
“It’s a tough call but that is what Test cricket is all about because there are no easy games and playing the best at this level also helps you to see where you really are in terms of your strengths and weaknesses,” a local cricket analyst told The Southern Times.
Zimbabwe Cricket spokesman Darlington Majonga said they were excited about the challenge and is hopeful the team will give a good account of themselves in South Africa.
“The whole world will be watching because it’s something that has not been done before and we are confident that we will play some good cricket there,” he said.
“We have seen some improvements in our team and the confidence is growing all the time and the coach Heath Streak is doing something really good with these boys.”
Ironically, Taylor would have played in South Africa earlier this year had the inaugural Global T20 show not been postponed. Now he has to do it for his country.