No tears for Taibu

These last two months have seen many cricketing headlines- ‘England demolished!’ ‘Dhoni on fire’ ‘Afridi banned!’- But in the midst of the modern sporting world, the growing crisis in Zimbabwe continues to be ignored by the ICC.

Ever since Zimbabwe became a test nation in 1992, it has always some players capable of performing at international level. True, they weren’t as a whole a very good side but they were always a potential banana skin as India and Pakistan have both found out.

Now sadly, a mass exodus of players caused by political turmoil means Zimbabwe are no longer capable of producing a side fit for any form of international cricket.

It all started to go wrong during the 2003 world cup. Apart from England’s refusal to play in Zimbabwe, the tournament also became infamous for Henry olonga and Andy Flower’s infamous black armband protest over the ‘death of democracy’ in their home country. After their courageous act, both men were forced to flee Zimbabwe and retire from international cricket.

Andy Flower was far and away the best player Zimbabwe has ever produced, but now he was gone, what would happen? Would the corrupt cricket board be forced out of power? Would the ICC step in and do their job? Would Mugabe be overthrown?

Not a chance.

As the first signs of Zimbabwe’s fall into corruption turned to old news, it became evident that the ICC weren’t going to do a thing As Henry Olonga pointed out in a recent article.

“A player hesitates over a decision on TV and gets fined, or has a bat logo too large and gets the same treatment. A whole nation’s cricket fraternity is about to collapse, and because of some weird rule in the constitution, it cannot get involved.”
Henry Olonga on the (in) action of the ICC over Zimbabwe’s internal battle

With Flower in exile, it was up to Tatenda Taibu to keep wicket. He was just 20 at the time, but was already proving to be a very talented performer with bat and gloves. At just over 5ft, he was light and agile which are both great attributes for a keeper-batsman.

By the end of 2004, everything was back to normal minus Olonga and Flower. Zimbabwe and Bangladesh were still the improving underdogs of world cricket and Mugabe and Peter Chingoka the ZCB chairman were still in power. All good, thought the ICC as they swept yet another major issue under the proverbial carpet and went back to smoking their pipes and analysing bat stickers.

But to the ICC’s dismay, the Zimbabwe saga didn’t end there. By May 2004, another crisis was brewing on the horizon.

Heath Streak was about to be sacked over disputes with the racial quota selection policy. He had made his views clear, he felt, quite rightly, that the racial quotas were holding back the national side. It was a problem just waiting to happen, yet the ICC continued to turn the other cheek. They were the only ones who could have averted this. With the Zimbabwean cricket board as corrupt as it was (is) they were never going to back down.

Streak’s eventual sacking on May 6th triggered a 9 month strike by 15 of Zimbabwe’s top players. The strike left Zimbabwe devoid of any class players bar Taibu who was given the un-enviable job as captain. By the end, Zimbabwe had to postpone their tour of Australia as they were unable to field a half-credible side.

Part 2 covers Taibu’s resignation and examines the ICC’s inquest into the ZCB

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