There can be only one winner of this week’s Cricket World Player of the Week award. Zimbabwe’s captain Brendan Taylor almost single-handedly led his side’s batting in the Test win over Bangladesh in Harare, becoming the first Zimbabwe captain to score a century in each innings of a Test match.
In all, he scored 273 of his side’s 616 runs (44.32%) - a total that was only seven less than Bangladesh’s aggregate for all 20 wickets. His average for the match was 273, with the remainder of Zimbabwe’s top seven managing to average just 13.58 with only one half-century. They were only his third and fourth Test centuries and couldn’t have come at a better time for him, his team and his country.
Following a dismal tour of the West Indies, both personally and on a team level, Taylor was facing plenty of questions over not only his future as captain but more importantly the future of Zimbabwe as a Full Member of the ICC. The dissenting voices that had been arguing that Ireland, and perhaps even Afghanistan, could to a better job at cricket’s top table were growing even louder, while Bangladesh seemed to be improving quickly and a gulf between them in ninth and Zimbabwe in 10th appeared to be opening.
However, thanks to Taylor and Zimbabwe’s seam bowlers - Kyle Jarvis and Shingi Masakadza in particular - when Zimbabwe re-enter the ICC’s ranking list following the second Test, they should do so ahead of Bangladesh.
Not only were their questions about the future of Zimbabwe as a Test nation heading into the match, but Taylor also had to deal with the continuing financial difficulties that the board, Zimbabwe Cricket, faces. Some argue that the pitiful state of their finances is ZC’s fault through a combination of ineptitude, overstaffing of administrative positions, and even corruption - claims which have not been substantiated it must be stressed - while others point the finger of blame at the lack of big-name teams willing to tour there and the resulting lack of TV and sponsorship money. Whatever the reason, the result was that the week before the first Test Taylor and caretaker coach Stephen Mangongo had a player strike on their hands.
The fringe players were unhappy that they stood to earn less by remaining in Zimbabwe to be available for selection for the winter’s international program than they would by playing club cricket in Europe. They wanted a winter contract and several refused to turn up for practice with some centrally-contracted players allegedly walking out in sympathy. Eventually ZC awarded a winter contract, but the amount of money was still relatively insignificant leading Craig Ervine to skip the series and play club cricket in Ireland.
The fact that Taylor not only had to deal with poor personal form and skipper a struggling side, but also deal with player unrest shows the magnitude of what he achieved in Harare. He could quite easily soon be considered as Zimbabwe’s best ever captain.
© Cricket World 2013
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