Taibu set to become youngest ever Test skipper

Published: Saturday, April 3, 2004, 19:48 [IST]
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Harare:Tiny though he is in stature, Tatenda Taibu is about to hit the big time by becoming the youngest Test captain in the history of cricket.

With Heath Streak having sensationally quit as Zimbabwe skipper on Friday, 20-year-old vice-captain Taibu was immediately installed by the Zimbabwe Cricket Union (ZCU) as his successor.

Now he is set to overtake the record currently held by the Nawab of Pataudi, who was 21 years 77 days old when he first captained India in the West Indies in 1961-62.

Taibu won't be 21 until May 14 - Zimbabwe's first Test against Sri Lanka in Harare starts on May 6. By that time, Taibu will already have broken the One-day record for the youngest skipper.

That honour currently belongs to Waqar Younis who was 21 years and 354 days when he led out Pakistan against the West Indies at Sharjah in 1993-94.

Taibu - who is just over 1.52 metres tall - is an athletic wicketkeeper with an outgoing personality that he will need in the cut-throat politics of Zimbabwe cricket. "I would say I am a middle order batsman and a bubbly wicketkeeper with a lot to say," said Taibu.

A multi-talented sportsman, first picked for Zimbabwe at the age of 16, Taibu has lost both parents and taken over much of the responsibility for bringing up six brothers and sisters.

Taibu plays a straight bat to questions about his country's political troubles. "Playing a sport like cricket and the professionalism involved with the sport, I have to forget about whatever is happening in Zimbabwe," he said.

"I just have to concentrate on what I have got in hand, which is playing cricket for my country. "The best thing I can do for my people is to play good cricket. "I know if I play cricket well, I am representing a lot of people back home, and that is great."

Taibu has admitted that he became a wicketkeeper by accident. "I was playing for a team called the Strugglers XI and the wicketkeeper did not turn up so I volunteered," he said.

"Bill Flower (father of former Zimbabwe keeper Andy), who was watching, said I had good hands and feet. He later gave me a pair of Andy's gloves.

Up until that point he had been an off-spinner. But in many ways the switch from slow bowler to stumper was the least remarkable aspect of Taibu's cricket career which began in Zimbabwe's capital, Harare.

"I started off playing cricket at Chipembere Primary School when I was eight," Taibu said.

"We used to play during break-time. There were no nets, just trees with stumps painted on. But I never batted because the big boys pushed me out of the way."

Nevertheless, a chance to receive proper coaching, in good facilities, was at hand if Taibu could collect one of the four annual cricket scholarships offered by Churchill High School.

However, just before the scholarship exam, disaster struck. "I injured my arm so I couldn't hold a bat properly. I didn't get the scholarship."

But fate intervened. A businessman, whose son had played alongside Taibu, provided funds so that Stuart Matsikenyeri - also now a Zimbabwe international - was promoted to a full scholarship and Taibu took his place.

Taibu's international debut came in 2001 and his lively keeping and bold batting were both features of Zimbabwe's march to the second phase of last year's World Cup.

Since his Test debut against the West Indies in Bulawayo in 2001, Taibu has played 14 matches making 599 runs, hitting a highest score of 83 and claiming 30 victims behind the stumps.

He also has 54 One-day International caps to his name with 640 runs and a highest socre of 74. He also has 51 victims with his gloves.

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