Sportstar archives: Tatenda Taibu and the art of wicketkeeping

Tatenda Taibu learnt a lot about the science of wicketkeeping and batting from Andy Flower, whom he says has been a big influence in his cricketing career.

Tatenda Taibu with his mentor and benefactor, Andy Flower.-V. V. KRISHNAN   -  V. V. KRISHNAN

A teacher affects eternity: he can never tell where his influence stops, goes a saying. In much the same way, Tatenda Taibu, the 18-year-old Zimbabwe wicketkeeper-batsman, can never tell where Andy Flower's effect will end.

Taibu learnt a lot about the science of wicketkeeping and batting from Andy, whom he says has been a big influence in his cricketing career. For someone who took up wicketkeeping only four years ago, Taibu - who made his Test debut against the West Indies in July last year - has made remarkable progress. And he happens to be someone who took to 'keeping by sheer chance, though he had always wanted to pursue it.

Considered by many as a talented gloveman, Taibu, five feet, five inches in height and 65-kg in weight, spoke about his cricket and more during the Zimbabwe versus Board President's XI tour game in Vijayawada recently. Taibu went on to make a huge impression in the two-Test series that followed.

Excerpts

What is Andy Flower's influence on you as a cricketer?

I've played a lot of cricket with Andy back home. We used to play for the same club. He was the player-cum-coach of the team and used to help me out tremendously. He has been a huge influence on me.

Did you emerge from a programme or were you just spotted? If so, who spotted you?

I emerged from a development programme conducted by the Zimbabwe Cricket Union meant for ethnic players. The ZCU had deputed its coaches to all the primary schools for coaching as well as searching talent. This was some 10 years ago. Stephen Mangongo was my coach. He still is. He is presently a National selector. They also gave us scholarship to go to High School.

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Wicketkeeping can be a thankless job. One must love it to do it. Your views?

I only began 'keeping some four years ago. I was an opening bat and an off-spinner earlier. Though I have always been fascinated by 'keeping. I had never got a chance. It was during a programme match, organised by Andy's father, that I got my first opportunity when one of the regular 'keepers failed to turn up. I volunteered. Andy's father was impressed by my approach. I concentrated on it thereafter. The fact that Andy keeps wickets has helped him concentrate for long hours in batting.

Tatenda Taibu has managed to compartmentalise his thought processes.-V.V. KRISHNAN

 

Is that your intention too, so that it helps your batting?

Not exactly, but it does help a lot. I love my job. As a 'keeper, you watch the ball leave the bowler's hand; you delve deeper, by watching how he grips the ball, how he releases it. Hence, when you go out to bat you don't struggle to get your eye in. Then there is the concentration aspect which is an integral part of 'keeping. Overall it improves your powers of concentration.

Has anybody in your family played cricket? If not, how did you take to the game?

I am the first in my family to take up this game. As I said earlier, I came through the ZCU school programme. My two younger brothers also play cricket now. The one next to me, Kudzai, represented the country in the under-17 World Cup in England. He is also a wicketkeeper. Actually, he does everything. I'm sure he'll come up.

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Have you an alternate career to cricket lined up?

I intend taking up cricket as a full-time career. But, at the same time, I hope to equip myself with a degree in accountancy. A back-up, so to say. I've just finished my 'A' levels.

What is your training schedule like on a regular day?

I get up at six in the morning and go for a jog in the soccer stadium near my home. I time my speeds, follow it up with a variety of exercises. I don't do much gym work, but concentrate a lot on sit-ups and press-ups. I get home, have a shower and my breakfast and then this friend of mine and I go and do an hour's batting each and then I work on my wicketkeeping - a variety of drills.

Your experience in the last two Junior World Cups?

The first one (in Sri Lanka, 2000) was really tough for me. It was hot and humid. The ball turned a lot. It was there that I learnt to play spin. I expected us to have done a lot better in the recent one in New Zealand. I played well myself; was adjudged Player of the Tournament. But the side's inexperience showed up, even though our performance graph improved with every match.

(This interview was first published in the Sportstar magazine on March 23, 2002.)

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