Cricket is generally considered a minority sport in Zimbabwe. Very few youngsters choose to pursue it as a career, however of late, it has come of age. Even kids from the high residential suburbs are now interested in the gentleman`s game. In a period that was mainly dominated by not only the elite, but the “whites” (hope that does not sound racial),it had to take a certain special generation to break that ice.
In that generation was a young man, who changed the face of the game in Zimbabwe. He had something special, a certain kind of charisma which was was/is rare for a teenager. He is none other than the inspirational former Zimbabwe National Cricket team captain and wicketkeeper Tatenda “Tibly” Taibu.
Born in Harare on the 14th of May 1983,three years after the country had attained its independence, Taibu became an icon, when he was appointed vice captain of the Zimbabwe Cricket team, deputising Heath Streak in 2003 in a tour to England. A first for a black person in an independent Zimbabwe. At that time Zimbabwe cricket was going through a transition as quite a number of black players were emerging into the scene. The likes of Henry Olonga were already established figures, whilst Douglas Hondo and Hamilton Masakadza were still trying to each make a name for themselves, but it was Taibu who stood out a shoulder above the rest.
His prowess behind the stumps and with the bat were hard to ignore. He had a unique characteristic that set him apart from the rest. It was all affirmed the following year when he was appointed the captain of the Chevrons during a test match against Sri Lanka in Harare, after Streak had stepped down. Subsequently he became the youngest test captain in the history of the game at a tender age of twenty. Taibu propped up all the responsibility on his shoulders with some impressive performances for the national cricket team. He became a popular figure the world over as he made headlines with impressive performances behind the stumps as the wicketkeeper and with the bat.
His athletic ability, spearheaded by a small body frame made him score quick singles and his sweep shots were totally amazing. Very few people could play the sweep shot better than Taibu, it was evident he had understudied the best, his role mode, former Zimbabwe wicketkeeper/batsman Andy Flower.
Having made his debut against the West Indies in July 2001,Taibu went on to play 28 Tests for Zimbabwe, scoring 1546 Test runs,at an average of 30 with 57 catches and 5 stumping’s, while making his One Day Internationals debut against the same side and scoring 3393 runs at an avarage of 29,taking 114 catches and making 33 stumping’s. He finished as the country`s fourth highest runner scorer and was the first black cricketer to score 3000 runs. He had the second highest number catches behind Andy Flower.
Taibu also scored a first by becoming the first black Zimbabwean to play in the lucrative Indian Premier League, having been signed by Kolkata Knight Riders in 2008.
In a career that spanned eleven years,Taibu stunned all sundry by announcing his retirement at the age of 29,to do the work of God. By that time, he had already made his mark and had inspired all the black kids in less privileged communities to play cricket.
Many started to believe in themselves and decided to step up and be recognised. He walked the hardest path and broke new grounds so that many walking behind him found it easy to follow.
Taibu remains a hero for many youngsters and as Zimbabwe celebrates its Independence it is black people like Taibu that make it all worth.