For over seventeen years, Brendon Taylor has been a mainstay of Zimbabwe Cricket. He has been among the biggest reasons for the rest of the world to follow Zimbabwe Cricket, which has given a number of false promises to recover from an era of maliciousness and mismanagement, to often lacking faith in its own talents. Taylor always offered a breath of fresh air, a ray of hope amid gloom and it may not be wrong to called him a true Zimbabwean hero who deserves more attention than given.
It was a sunny morning at Queens Sports Club, but things were grim for Zimbabwe as the experienced players had gone against the policies of board, which had led to a difficulty. A series of strugglers and newcomers were put up against a strong Sri Lankan team, among them- a young talented teenager from Mashonaland, who had just turned 18.
Brendon Taylor showed a glimpse of his talent right from the maiden series he featured in. Seventeen years later, when he decided to call time on what has been a remarkable, moving, and inspiring career, he leaves behind a legacy for the future generations to follow.
Brendon Taylor, it ought to be remembered, was a link between the golden generation of Zimbabwe (1998-2004) and a generation which was left in the lurches (2004-2011). The question will always be asked “had he become the greatest cricketer from Zimbabwe if he had received the same kind of facilities which Flowers’, Campbells’, Streaks’, Goodwins’ received”.
In his early years his talent was nurtured by Ian Campbell, father of former Zimbabwe Captain Alistair Campbell. He ensured that the talent that Taylor possessed was fine tuned. The glimpse of this was evident from young age when he played his initial First-Class match at the age of only 15 in 2001-02. He was only 16 when he made a double hundred in Logan Cup in 2002-03, a prime reason why he was picked up for the Sri Lanka series when the senior players and board were at loggerheads.
Taylor had celebrated his 18th Birthday just two months before his international debut. In initial years he found hard to cope up with the pressure of international cricket. However, by scoring 3 consecutive fifties against Sri Lanka and Australia only in his first month of International Cricket in 2004, he showed that Zimbabwe had got a special talent. While Taylor at times had fought lone battles in his early years but consistency was something which eluded him, probably because there was no senior to guide him as his generation grew up faltering and learning by themselves.
Taylor got international recognition as his country’s main batsman in 2006, when he played a match-winning inning of 79* of 72 balls. 20 –year- old Taylor sealed the game with a last ball six of Mashrafe Mortaza. Year 2009 was breakthrough for Taylor, despite scoring tons of runs he hadn’t yet notched up a hundred. On 5th November 2009 at Chattogram, Brendan Taylor notched his first international hundred and since then, made playing long innings a a habit.
His 145* against South Africa in 2010 could be termed as one of the best innings played by a Zimbabwe cricketer. During this era, Zimbabwe had taken a break from Test Cricket (2005-2011). When Zimbabwe returned, Taylor stamped his class on the longer version as well. He made hundred in both of innings of a Test against Bangladesh in 2013 (171 and 102*). He’d then repeat this feat against same opposition, though this time on foreign soil. In 2018, he scored 110 and 106* at Dhaka. Though these hundreds came in losing cause.
Taylor played one of his finest innings against India in 2015 World Cup. That’s something that deserves a special mention not only because it was a valiant knock, but one that compelled Virat Kohli, such a toughie, to offer the right-hander a pat on the back.
Having decided to quit Zimbabwe Cricket in search of more stable career in United Kingdom, Taylor scored a smashing hundred against a quality Indian side at Eden Park, Auckland in Zimbabwe’s last World Cup encounter. He scored 138 of just 110 deliveries and gave Zimbabwe an outside chance to create a major upset.
Post-World Cup, Taylor moved to England to start his new life. That’s when it looked that a career, which had all the ingredients to get to the top was heading toward the unfulfilled zone.
Brendan Taylor, however, returned toward late-2017 and since then, has gone on to form an important crux of Zimbabwe’s batting-order, which includes Sean Williams, Sean Ervine and Sikandar Raza.
Though, would you believe a fact?
To this day, these four pillars of Zimbabwean cricket have not played even a sizeable amount of cricket together that would compel one- and rightly so- to uphold this quartet, which is, by no means, inferior to any in world cricket.
In their heydays, Zimbabwean players like Alistair Campbell and Andy Flower played 6 tests per year on an average. Had Taylor played at same rate he would have played 70 Tests by now (out of 17 years since Taylor started playing, Zimbabwe didn’t played for 6 years , in remaining 11.5 years he would played 11.5×6= 70 Tests ) Considering that even he would have scored at the same average he would have somewhere around 4500-5000 Test runs to his name. But such has been the situation in Zimbabwe since 2004 that the cricketers feel lucky to get chance to play international cricket. So whatever chance they are getting they like grabbing with both the hands.
For someone who continued to be the flag-bearer of Zimbabwean Cricket, especially amid a period constant turmoil, much of which was down to the management of the board and sheer unpreparedness, or who knows, even unwillingness to improve, Brendan Taylor did great.
He deserves our standing applause, a clap won’t do, nor will a salutary article such as this.
But let’s be frank- for someone who gave us such joy, and to his country, hope amid duress, this is the least that one could do.