For a 23-year-old, Tatenda Taibu has a mature head on his shoulders. Having to relocate from his troubled country — Zimbabwe — with his pregnant wife when he received death threats not so long ago, the former Zimbabwe captain and wicketkeeper rushed to Bangladesh to play there for over a month, before moving to England to play league cricket in Surrey.
Taibu was Sachin Tendulkar’s teammate at the Lashings World XI when the Indian maestro returned to competitive cricket after his shoulder surgery. In a telephonic interview with HT, Taibu gives a first-hand account of Tendulkar’s role at Lashings:
How was it playing with Tendulkar at Lashings?
Tendulkar has always been a great guy and I enjoy his company. I learn a lot whenever I meet him. His elbow was almost 100 per cent healed then. He was still struggling with his shoulder, though.
It is known that cricket at Lashings is not of the highest standard. Should Tendulkar have been playing there in his pursuit to return to international cricket?
Cricket in any form is still cricket. A batsman has still got to go out there and get a hundred. Club cricket, which is what Lashings play, may be low in standard. But the pitches are tricky too. So the batsmen have to work hard to get their runs. Moreover, Lashings also does a lot of charity.
Sachin has played a lot of good games against some of the better teams. Of course, he played two games against school teams. But, as I said, you still have to get out there and get a hundred. For Tendulkar to be doing that, to keep up his concentration regardless of the weakness of the opposition and to perform, it was amazing.
What is your personal take on the situation? Would you advise a player testing an injured part of the body to play non-serious cricket, or tell him to play more seriously at the nets?
I would tell him to go out and perform. Tendulkar has been through this before. After his elbow injury a couple of years ago, he played against Sri Lanka and when everybody else was struggling against Sri Lanka and Muralitharan’s doosra, he performed. He will do something similar again. People the world over, including myself, want him to play international cricket again and enthrall us.
You had to announce retirement from cricket at a young age when you had a whole career ahead of you. How tough was it?
I definitely did not expect whatever happened in Zimbabwe. As a youngster, I longed to play for the country. And it was a privilege when I did that at a very early age and captained the team. I expected to play for the country for at least 20 years. Unfortunately, due to the circumstances in Zimbabwe, things went the wrong way.
With the new ICC president Percy Sonn to visit Zimbabwe and take stock of the situation, do you see things improving?
It is hard to say as I have been away from Zimbabwe for a few months. I left Zimbabwe in March. As I understand, there is no first class cricket in Zimbabwe and no league cricket. It is a bad sign. There is no cricket played at the moment. I hope things improve.
Do you see yourself playing for Zimbabwe again?
Obviously, I’d like to play international cricket again. Once you taste what international cricket is all about, you crave for its competitiveness and for your country to do well. But I have to look at a few things as well. I am not claiming to settle down in England. I am looking at playing first class cricket in South Africa as the conditions there are similar to Zimbabwe and also there is more space between games there.