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God wanted me to play in the Cup: Taibu

A week ago, Tatenda Taibu was involved in an accident. He escaped unhurt but his white Nissan was a complete wreck.

india Updated: Feb 20, 2003 00:45 IST

A week ago, Tatenda Taibu was involved in an accident. He escaped unhurt but his white Nissan was a complete wreck. The 19-year old Zimbabwean wicket-keeper sees a larger plan in this. "Perhaps He wanted me to play in the World Cup, after all it is taking place in my own country," says Taibu, with his usual smile.

You can get a driving licence in Zimbabwe when you turn 16. Taibu got his and bought the Nissan so he could cover the distance from his Highfield house to the Harare Sports Club ground in 35-40 minutes. "Don't ask how long it would take without a car," he laughs. Now the car is beyond repair.

And as he has no telephone at home, the team has given him a mobile to keep in touch. Taibu's ability to smile and get on with life is also a measure of his resilience and strength of character. He lost his parents - both died of disease - a year ago. He is the fifth of six siblings, the eldest of whom opened a barber's shop to look after his brothers and sisters.

Taibu would probably have also been roped into joining the shop and working for a living had he not found his place in the national team. "Yes, the circumstances of the past year have been a motivating factor. I wanted to help my family survive. It's one of the reasons why I took every hour in the nets so seriously. I had to become a cricketer."

He now visits his brother's shop occasionally - to have a haircut! Coming back to the cricket, Taibu became a household name in rather unfortunate circumstances a couple of years ago when Heath Streak, the then skipper, resigned in protest of his inclusion in the Test squad against India. Streak had reportedly said that players should be included on the basis of merit, not colour.

But time has made a difference. Streak is back as skipper and now believes that Taibu is one of the youngsters to be watched in the current World Cup.

Taibu, not surprisingly, had nothing to say about the controversy. He is more interested in talking about his cricket. Taibu says he has no 'keeping idol but Sachin Tendulkar and Andy Flower are his batting idols. In fact, he replaced Flower behind the stumps. Incidentally, Flower too had opposed his inclusion in the Test team when the whole controversy first flared up.

Taibu says he has had umpteen discussions on batting with Flower but they have never discussed keeping. He credits his constant improvement as a wicket-keeper to Geoff Marsh, their Aussie coach. "He really helped, it would have been difficult for me to improve so much if he wasn't around," he adds.

Interestingly, Taibu is good friends with Parthiv Patel. Both had led their countries in the u-19 World Cup in New Zealand and became pals then. Most experts feel that the battle for the tag of the world's best keeper in the future will be between these two youngsters. At the moment though, Taibu is ahead in the race. After all, this is more or less an 'exposure' trip for Patel. Taibu is the number one wicket-keeper for his side.

First Published: Feb 20, 2003 00:45 IST