The show must go on

HARARE - Legendary British rock band Queen, dominated the charts from the late 70s to the early 90s with smash hits, that is still remembered in today's music circles.

In 1990, the sad news broke that their inspirational lead singer Freddie Mercury had been diagnosed with HIV.

After the initial shock, the group gathered themselves, and wrote a deeply moving song entitled The show must go on.

Twenty three and a half years after the tragic death of Mercury, the saying is still used, and his unmistakable, almost gravelly voice is still heard on our radio sets, and even played at sell out sport events.

Despite Mercury's loss, Queen still performs in front of massive crowds, and their albums are still bought.

So, as painful as it must have been for the band, the show most certainly has still gone on, and Queen are still a household name amongst genuine music lovers.

Like it or not, Zimbabwe cricket are going to have to adopt the same stance as they say goodbye to one of the country’s most loyal and dedicated servants Brendan Ross Murray Taylor.

It feels like just the other day when the bombshell hit Zimbabwe cricket, leaving an ominous path of destruction in its wake.

Fans were still reeling after the departure of Andy Flower, who for many years carried the burden of batting on his slender shoulders, before calling it a day after the 2003 ICC Cricket World Cup, and settling down in the county of Essex.

Although Flower's departure was a huge setback to the team, Zimbabwe were still able to hold their own against full strength teams.

Players such as Stuart Carlisle, Craig Wishart, Grant Flower and a young and very enthusiastic Tatenda Taibu gladly accepted the challenge of stepping up to the plate, and taking extra responsibilities.

When a weaker team has a stand out player, there is a tendency, an inadvertent tendency it has to be said for the rest of the players to breathe easier with the knowledge that their number one and most consistent player would do the donkey work for them.

Andrew Flower stepped down, and a rush of bodies filled the gap.

However, a year later, a mass exodus of players once again left floundering, only this time, little Taibu was tasked with trying to keep the ship afloat.

The story of Zimbabwe cricket has been told and retold, so the keen follower would be up to date with the facts.

Most of the players, who had to make the step up to international cricket, were very unknown to the majority of cricket fans in the country, and indeed around the world, as the then Zimbabwe Cricket Union (ZCU) had to make snap decisions at the 59th minute of the 11th hour.

Most of the players who were drafted into the team had just returned from the Under-19 World Cup, and one of the fresh faced lads was Brendan Taylor.

A tallish slightly chubby youngster with long scraggly hair, and a permanent smile, Taylor probably looked more like someone going to a rock fest, as opposed to representing his country in a international cricket match.

His first two innings, were ones he would want to forget, and he very quickly gained the reputation of having his feet stuck to the batting crease, and international journalists who had no idea, or very little idea as to the back ground of Zimbabwe cricket, had a field day at the expense of young Brendan and his family.

I had the privilege of hitching a ride back to Harare with Brendan's parents after the second Test against Sri Lanka in Bulawayo, and got firsthand knowledge as to the huge amount of pressure all the young players were under.

Some of the players fell by the wayside, while others have been able to hold on with the skin of their teeth, but Taylor seems to have been the only player who has risen above adversity to become the player and person he is.

It hasn't been an easy ride though, Taylor often found himself being caught up in the pleasures of events off the field.

Like so many young talented Zimbabwean sportsmen, Taylor also subscribed to the theory of working hard, but playing just as hard as well, and he will be well remembered for sharing an epic evening of clubbing in Cape Town with former coach Phil Simmons, after Zimbabwe were trounced in the first of two Test matches in Cape Town by South Africa in 2005.

And yet, despite his somewhat mischievous nature that got him into a bit of trouble on the odd occasion, people developed a deep love and affection for BT or Tubby as some of his friends and team mates call him.

And, that was exactly what carried Taylor over the threshold from boyhood to manhood in a relatively short space of time.

The fans never gave up on him, recognising the talent and potential of a young man who had been thrust into a very difficult position, and who was still trying to find his feet, and recognise his role in the team.

Taylor's role soon became apparent, anchor the innings, then up the tempo when necessary.

He made people sit up and take note when he snatched victory from the jaws of almost certain defeat in a thrilling ODI encounter against Bangladesh in 2006 when he smashed the very last ball of the match for six to win the game against the visitors by one wicket at Harare Sports club.

The first addition of the ICC T20 World Cup in Cape Town in 2007 probably put Taylor firmly on the world map when he scored an unbeaten half century against Australia to cause one of cricket's biggest upsets, when Zimbabwe beat the Aussies by five wickets.

How well I remember sitting at the press conference, with Taylor and coach Robin Brown a few metres in front of me, and feeling the emotions of excitement and pride flowing through my veins.

What also made the win so sweet was the fact that BT had played against a player who was an absolute cricketing god in his young life.

Australian wicketkeeper batsman Adam Gilchrist, who Brendan admired and respected throughout his childhood had not only played against him, but his team had also been beaten by Zimbabwe.

Captaincy has been a long and ongoing issue in Zimbabwe, and after a lot of hitting and missing, the captaincy was eventually and possibly reluctantly handed over to Taylor in 2011.

The added responsibility did wonders for Taylor, as he scored four centuries in his first seven Tests in charge, after scoring none in his previous 10 Tests.

Taylor then added another record to the growing list by becoming the first Zimbabwean batsman to score back to back one day international centuries, when he scored 128* and 107* against New Zealand at Harare Sports club in 2011.

Taylor then repeated that feat with back to back hundreds in the ongoing Cricket World Cup, when he plundered scores of 121 against Ireland, and 138 against India.

Sadly, Taylor ended up on the losing end of every one of those special achievements.

After a rough tour of the West Indies in February 2013, Taylor bounced back by becoming the first Zimbabwean captain, and the third Zimbabwean batsman to score back to back Test hundreds against Bangladesh on a tricky wicket at Harare Sports club in April 2013.

Then, suddenly, and inexplicably, the powers that be of Zimbabwe Cricket felt it was time to split the captaincy.

To this very day, nobody will know the real reason as to why such a decision was made.

Countries who have very busy international schedules split the captaincy to try and share the load of cricket played by their players, but as we know, Zimbabwe only play a handful of cricket every year, and therefore, there was absolutely no need to strip Taylor from the captaincy, and from a job he was doing to the best of his ability, given the resources he was forced to work with.

And yet, despite his obvious bewilderment and disappointment, Taylor stood steadfast in his decision and weathered the storms that a couple of bully boys hurled at him, as well as the rapidly declining financial situation in the game.

But, after the disastrous tour of Bangladesh late last year, even the resourceful and patient Taylor had enough and snapped.

The usual broad smile had gone when he stepped onto the pitch at the start, and there was a new steeliness and hardness about him as he got starts in all the matches, but was unable to carry on.

Someone was going to get it in the neck, one of the teams were going to suffer the wrath of his bat, someone was going to be on the receiving end of months, possibly years of built up anger, frustration and a deep sadness Taylor carried around inside him, knowing that this would be the last World Cup he would be playing for his country at a young age, all because of a system that chased away and discouraged so many of our country's players.

Although Taylor's highest ODI score is 145* against South Africa in Bloemfontein in 2010, the brutal 138 off just 110 balls with 15 fours and five sixes against India will be remembered the most with mixed feelings of joy and sadness.

But, as the Queen song so rightly says. The show must go on and Zimbabwe cricket and their fans will once again have to pin their hopes on a new Brendan Taylor.

Whether any of the players will have what it takes to fill the gap remains to be seen, but with a pedigree of Brendan Ross Murray Taylor, who represented his country in 167 ODIs, scoring a fraction over 5 000 runs at a healthy average of 32.82 with 32 half centuries and eight hundreds, as well as playing 23 Tests, scoring 1493 test runs at an average of 34.72 which included seven 50s and four hundreds, with a highest score of 171, Zimbabwe may have to batten down the hatches and be prepared to play the patient game yet again, as another player either steps up to the plate, or is groomed to take over the former Test captain's job.

Post a comment

Readers are kindly requested to refrain from using abusive, vulgar, racist, tribalistic, sexist, discriminatory and hurtful language when posting their comments on the Daily News website.
Those who transgress this civilised etiquette will be barred from contributing to our online discussions.
- Editor

Your email address will not be shared.