LIVERPOOL: The picturesque Formby Cricket Club, nestled in a quiet and leafy residential area of the Mersyside, provided the perfect backdrop for Tatenda Taibu to go down the memory lane. The former Zimbabwean cricketer, the youngest captain in Test history, lives a calm and peaceful life here, after death threats and attempts to kidnap his wife forced him to flee the country in 2005.
“It was devastating for a 21-year-old. I was called for a meeting with a minister and he threw an envelope on the table. It had pictures of dead people and was full of gory. Then I realised that some people in the government didn’t want me to stay in the country as I had raised some uncomfortable questions about the way the sport was administered. Misappropriation of funds meant for cricketers was my biggest concern then. To some people’s surprise, there were some leaders who backed me by giving police security to my house,” recalled the 36-year-old Taibu, who played 28 Tests and 150 ODI for Zimbabwe.
Taibu was trying to carry on with his life in Zimbabwe, but an incident involving his wife forced into exile. “I realised it wasn’t worth taking the risk. My wife was almost kidnapped. I didn’t want to put my wife’s life in danger to remain in Zimbabwe. Then I decided it was enough. I had a friend in Bangladesh, so I went there first before going to the UK,” said Taibu, on the sidelines of a match at Formby Cricket Club to promote his book ‘Keeper of Faith’.
Soon after the 2003 World Cup which was co-hosted by Zimbabwe, former captain Andy Flower and Henry Olongo were forced to flee the country for wearing a black arm-band during a Cup match to highlight the “death of democracy” under Robert Mugabe’s government. The duo’s exile drew more international media attention for their strong political stand.
Taibu said that fact that some his teammates who wanted to support earlier and then backed out eventually disappointed him a lot.
“I found that to be a betrayal. I didn’t ask for any support because I knew others would also be targetted for showing support. However, I am still in touch with those players,” he added.
For the first time since 1983, Zimbabwe are not part of the ODI World Cup. Taibu is obviously disappointed. “I would like to see the World Cup go back to a 12-team format. It would give an opportunity for teams like Zimbabwe to make it. However, Zimbabwe needs to sort out the mess back home. Nothing much as changed since I stood up to the board. It is so sad to see cricket dying in my country,” he said.
“Whenever I hear that some cricketer from Zimbabwe is doing well, it pleases me. Cricketers from Zimbabwe have to be respected because there are a lot of issues that they go through,” added Taibu who worked with Zimbabwe cricket for a brief time in 2018 as its convenor of selectors.
Taibu currently plays for Formy Cricket Club and also coaches kids to make a living here.