London — Tatenda Taibu has a lot on his plate, but then he seems to like it that way.
Captain of his country at 20, Taibu retired before he was 30, and after several years away from the game, is now throwing himself wholeheartedly into a new career as an administrator.
Placed in charge of selection by Zimbabwe Cricket (ZC) last year, Taibu is also responsible for player development – roles that he carries out, while being based in the United Kingdom, where he is setting up an academy to help bring through Zimbabwe’s next generation.
In between times, he is in discussions to coach cricket at a school in Crosby, the town near Liverpool he now calls home, and preparing to keep his eye in for a second season with local club Hightown St Mary’s.
Not to mention raising a young family and learning to understand the Scouse accent.
Wicketkeepers are said to be at their best when they are not being noticed, but Taibu seems intent on inverting that dictum.
“If it was easy, then everyone would do it,“ he says of the challenges he faces, six months after returning to the Zimbabwe set-up.
Taibu was appointed convener of selectors because he was identified, as someone the players could trust, and he has a strong relationship with the coach, Heath Streak, who was his captain on Test debut more than 14 years ago; but, beyond fixtures with Sri Lanka and West Indies in November, they have spent as much time trying to sort out Zimbabwe’s sparse playing schedule as picking squads.
There is also the issue of ZC’s finances, perennially a problem, and one that is currently serving to undermine the domestic schedule, amid postponements and player strikes.
This is not officially part of Taibu’s brief, though one senses he would willingly get involved, and he is optimistic that the situation is improving.
“We can“t run away from the fact there has been issues with money, but I feel that if we manage to sort out the structures, we wouldn’t be having half the problems that we’re having,” he said.
“That’s part of the reason the chairman put me forward. But it takes a bit of time, because if I start to mention certain things that should be done, a few of the administrators will feel that I am overriding them or making them look incompetent – which is not my motive.
“My objective is to make sure that Zimbabwe cricket resurrects. I want to make sure I don’t have that problem, because once you sense someone having a negative feeling towards you, you are not going to go another step with that person. So I am taking it slowly, making sure everyone is on the same page, and we can move together. I think we’ve made progress, the players are starting to see the direction we are taking, some of the administrators, too.”
“England has structures that are second to none, where cricket is concerned, so we could use those structures and get some ideas that we could use back home. The more players who play here, the better it will be for Zimbabwe.”
Distance perhaps helps give Taibu greater perspective on the problems cricket faces in his home country.
He has lived in England since unexpectedly retiring in 2012 to do “the Lord’s work” and he hopes that bringing over some of Zimbabwe’s young players to experience playing – and living – in a different environment will help their development in more than just a cricketing sense.
“When I started to work with ZC, I saw that just doing up the structures was not enough,” Taibu said.
Being convener of selectors, I get to see that we don’t really have a big player base, so I was thinking of ways we could improve on that. Not only that, but a bit about my character is to try and help out someone else.
Now his task is to “polish up” the relationship between the board and the players, which has suffered in the past over a lack of trust and feelings of racial bias.
Some of those issues still exist, Taibu concedes, and will doubtless be tested by events on the field, with Zimbabwe facing a real struggle to qualify for the 2019 World Cup and having not won a Test for more than three years.
But Taibu’s presence alongside Streak provides Zimbabwe two strong pillars on which to try and build a better future.
“I will definitely be busy because I am the only selector, but I have good relations with Streak and Douglas Hondo, the A-side coach. I played with both of them, so they understand me, I understand them. It makes my life easier, because I can almost read Streak’s mind, I can almost read Hondo’s mind, and vice versa.”