For loyalty, acceptance, and assiduity to live with the moments of brilliance, former Zimbabwean skipper Brendan Taylor — is one such example who you can think of. Taylor is one of the most exciting cricketers in a generation, who’s kept the dream alive on the cricketing field.
Taylor, who represented Zimbabwe Under-19 for two World Cup editions in 2002 and 2004 respectively talks about the niceties of international cricket. He further sheds light on Zimbabwean cricket, his love for batting and donning the gloves.
Besides, on life in lockdown, his county experience, rapport with AB de Villiers, Virat Kohli’s batting juggernaut and his captaincy, learning by doing apart from discussing a wide range of topics in an exclusive interview with Cricket Addictor.
Over the 16 years of his international experience, Taylor has become a formidable constant. At a time when more aspiring cricketers are showing up, Taylor usually sees his younger self in them.
Taylor’s cricketing journey is an interesting one which has inspired many in Zimbabwe to follow his footsteps. He believes lots of cricket talent within a country will help their national team to scale the heights in the foreseeable future.
The prominent cricketer is one of the players in a long line of Zimbabwe’s cricket prodigies, who had become a torchbearer.
It becomes pertinent that Zimbabwe’s star wicketkeeper-batsman Taylor had made his debut against Sri Lanka in 2004 at his home ground – Harare Sports Club (HSC). He then went on to represent his national team in 196 ODIs, 40 T20Is and 31 Tests. Interestingly, Taylor had snared ten wickets in the limited-overs format.
By and large, the 34-year-old Harare-born Taylor has been a vital cog in the wheel for the Zimbabwean side. He racked up 16 hundreds and 54 half-centuries across formats.
In June 2011, Taylor was appointed as a skipper while succeeding allrounder, Elton Chigumbura.
Although optimistic Taylor does not have a great captaincy track record to look at, however, he had done a decent job with a bat in hand.
Across formats, Taylor led Zimbabwe in 44 matches in which he managed to win 15 matches as a captain.
Amid highs and lows, Taylor had gleefully admitted his faults. He just wanted to play on and change the course of Zimbabwe’s cricket. Even now, he is determined to play a pivotal role in his national team by nursing the young breed of cricketers.
While introducing him via a video conferencing, I had committed a blunder by referring to him as his namesake and none other than ‘Brendon McCullum’, not once but thrice, which I am regretting even while jotting this down.
Halfheartedly, I had this bad case of butterflies in my stomach which will at least remind me for those good moments over and over again to see Brendan beaming a smile, and at the same time correcting me in a relaxed manner.
Anyway, there is always a second chance.
Excerpts from the interview with Brendan Taylor:
TIM: First of all, let us know how you’re spending your quarantine time? Also, cricketers are feeling frustrated in these testing times and what you’re going to say to your fans while being behind the closed doors?
BT: It has been a difficult period, but this is what it is, you know it’s tough on everyone when the whole world is suffering. I am with my family and enjoying it (the time).
I think every cricketer is in the same boat. We would love to play cricket out there, but at the same time, it is a much bigger situation than playing cricket. People are losing their lives, their jobs, and their families have been torn apart. So it’s challenging (in that context).
I believe we will overcome this, we will come back stronger, and we will come through it. As of now, I am using my time to be at home with my family, with my wife and am working on my fitness training, and that’s all I can do.
TIM: Talk us through about your career – how you managed to break into Zimbabwe’s national team at the age of 15 in 2004?
BT: I started playing first-class at the age of 15. I started cricket under Andy Flower, Grant Flower and Heath Streak. So, that was a good learning curve for me, and subsequently, that was a pretty difficult experience for me on dedicating myself to cricket.
Well, what I learnt during that period has helped me as to grow as a player so that I am very grateful for.
TIM: How you see Zimbabwe’s domestic structure which has witnessed its highs and lows? How do you see things unfolding now?
BT: The domestic situation is slow in the rebuilding phase, and those who are at the helm of affairs in Zimbabwean Cricket are trying hard to speed it up (streamline it).
We need the national players playing in it. Unfortunately, at times we can’t because of the international schedule.
So, it is imperative to focus on domestic cricket and make sure that the young crop of cricketers has a platform to make it at a higher level.
In the current situation, I believe Zimbabwe cricket is going at a good pace. Well, you need to nurture talented youngsters in the right way to yield desired results.
First and foremost, we need to put them into the systems, including Under-19 and Zimbabwe A, to make it to the national team. But I believe we have a lot of good players who have already made it to the national side.
Secondly, the balance between experienced players and inexperienced players had been rightly maintained to see Zimbabwe on the road of stability.
TIM: Zimbabwe in itself failed to make a cut for the 2019 World Cup. How did you see it as a professional?
BT: I mean one of the worst times of my whole career because Zimbabwe Cricket and ICC were going through their differences.
However, they eventually managed to come up with a solution, but you know; unfortunately, we missed the deadline by a few weeks to play qualifiers in Dubai.
So, it hurt all of us not to be involved in that.
Fortunately, we’re back playing after the suspension has been lifted. We’re looking forward to starting the proceedings after the COVID-19 pandemic.
TIM: Your thoughts on Virat Kohli about his batting and captaincy?
BT: Well, I think he’s the best batsman currently in the world. His record by the end of his career will be something remarkable. He just keeps getting to the new heights. He is once in a lifetime kind of a player.
As a captain, he is a very strong leader. He puts high pressure, demand on his players, and he knows how to get the best out of his players. So, it’s no secret why Indian cricket is solid at the moment.
Yes, you (India) have got a lot of players to choose from, but the BCCI do spend a lot of time and money in developing players. So, everyone knows how India as a county is passionate about cricket.
I see the Indian team tough to beat in the years to come because they’re getting better with the time.
TIM: Whom you want to bat for your life?
BT: Maybe, AB de Villiers or Virat Kohli.
I know everyone in India love Virat, and they love AB, too. Personally, I am good friends with AB. I’ve known him from being 10-year-old. I know he has finished his career and Virat is still going on and will go on to be one of the greatest of all time (players). But I would go with AB.
I would go with AB because I think he can play on various surfaces and can play all different attacks. And I believe Virat can do the same. But for me, it has to be AB.
TIM – Whom you see as fab four currently?
BT: Kane Williamson will be there, and you have got Ben Stokes, who wins you matches, then you got Virat Kohli and Steven Smith. So, I believe those four are the most valuable cricketers across all three formats.
TIM: Who’s your favourite batsman, and why?
BT: I have two favourite batsmen. One from Zimbabwe, Andy Flower. He was all I looked up to as a young player. Apart from him, probably Sachin Tendulkar because he believed people are supporting him, he was pretty humble, his records are unbelievable; he played 200 Test matches, highest ODI scorer, highest Test run-scorer. He is a nice and genuine person.
Sachin played the game better than most people have ever played. So, Sachin and Flower for me.
Your all-time IPL XI?
BT: Chris Gayle, Virender Sehwag, Virat Kohli, AB de Villiers, Yuvraj Singh, MS Dhoni, Ravindra Jadeja, Sunil Narine, Ravichandran Ashwin, Lasith Malinga and Jasprit Bumrah
Your all-time Indian XI?
BT: Virender Sehwag, Sachin Tendulkar, Virat Kohli, Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman, Sourav Ganguly, MS Dhoni, Harbhajan Singh, Anil Kumble, Zaheer Khan and Kapil Dev.
TIM: Could you name your best bowlers (across formats)?
BT: Dale Steyn, Mitchell Johnson, Mitchell Starc, (Jasprit) Bumrah and James Anderson.
TIM: Whom you’ve admired as a wicketkeeper-batsman?
BT: I went to the very supporting school – The Campbell Family School in Lilfordia, and that’s where it all started from. Alistair Campbell’s father, Ian Campbell, coached me as a youngster. And my passion grew there as a five-year-old kid.
And then, I moved to the senior school, and that time I have witnessed Andy Flower, Grant Flower, Murray Goodwin, Neil Johnson, Heath Streak and Alistair Campbell.
So, we had an incredible team in the 90s. We’ve hoped to achieve those heights what they had already accomplished during their time.
TIM: You had the least expectations of getting picked in the IPL which interestingly, saw you had set a date for your marriage. Then in 2014 season, Sunrisers Hyderabad picked you however you didn’t get a single game before being released for next season.
BT: That’s right. Yes, I remember the first two weeks of IPL was being played in Abu Dhabi and then the rest of the tournament back in India.
I didn’t expect to be picked. I know Tom Moody – the (former) head coach of Sunrisers Hyderabad (between 2013 and 2019) very well. I believe that’s where my luck changed.
Most probably, two months before that IPL edition I didn’t have a very good series against India, so I thought maybe I not going to get picked, but Moody saw some value in me. And, this is how it happened.
TIM: How different you find IPL than other leagues across the globe?
BT: I think IPL is undoubtedly the strongest league. You’ve got all the best players in the world playing in it. So, a good balance between experienced players and then younger players have to come through and perform. So, we have seen that all the time in India with the young talent they have.
Precisely, it is a great platform, and its high-intense cricket has entertained one and all. And it is no surprise why youngsters thoroughly dominate and start their careers on a good note for India.
TIM: During the 2015 World Cup, you were fourth-highest run-getter (433), and after scoring back-to-back hundreds against Ireland and India, you decided to sign Kolpak deal what actually pushed you for it, apart from ‘money’?
BT: Yeah, it was time to move on. I was 29 at that time. I played for three years and came back at 32. It was a difficult decision, but I felt that I became a better batsman. I had a good World Cup, but I felt I was not progressing as a player in Zimbabwe.
I had made my decision prior to the World Cup, and that was it. I am back now, and I have been playing for (more than) two years for Zimbabwe, and I hope to finish my career on a high while playing for Zimbabwe.
TIM: What did you learn from County stint with Nottinghamshire?
BT: The conditions are different. The ground (Trent Bridge) is big, and it has got a lot of history. The facilities are very nice as good as I could have got. Peter Moores, the renowned coach, has helped me a lot during that time. All in all, it was a fantastic experience.
You know I have played alongside some wonderful players – Alex Hales, Hary Gurney, Samit Patel. Besides, Ravichandran Ashwin has played one season with us. Overall, lot of ace players feature in the County cricket.
TIM: How do you see your comeback for Zimbabwe in 2017?
BT: I was great to make a comeback. I was happy to be back by spending quality time with my family and representing Zimbabwe again in the international circuit.
Well, when I got back into the Zimbabwean fold, I was on pins and needles. Overall, it was an easy decision, and I didn’t find it too difficult.
TIM: You had featured in two Under-19 World Cup editions for Zimbabwe. Back in 2002, you had played against Hashim Amla, Darren Sammy and Dwayne Bravo. Tell our viewers about your experience?
BT: It was very valuable for me being as a cricketer. I played my first in 2002 when I was 15 years old; it was a big challenge. But again it helped me progress very quickly as a player, and then I once again played another edition in 2004 in Bangladesh.
I’ve played against a lot of players like Shikhar Dhawan was in the Indian team, Alastair Cook from England, all these guys. It was the start of a long friendly competitive career against all of them.
And, many cricketers had represented their respective countries.
TIM: Do you think former players like Heath Streak, Andy Flower, Grant Flower should be associated with the Zimbabwean team, to help out the youngsters while being back into the system?
BT: Yeah, I think so, those guys have done it, Heath Streak has done it, Grant Flower was our batting coach. I don’t think Andy Flower will come back. But yes, local coaches, the guys who have played for Zimbabwe, it is always valuable to have them again in the system.
You see South Africa now, there is Mark Boucher, Jacques Kallis and Graeme Smith, who is now the director of cricket. These people understand how the game goes, and I believe that it’s very important to have your most experienced, successful players back in the current national team, whatever team that may be.