MANY cricket followers and lovers of the game around the world wonder why cricketers get bowled out early.
Tatenda Taibu who made his Test debut at the age of 18 in 2001 was an automatic pick for Zimbabwe, except for the times when he clashed with the cricket board over monetary issues.
Taibu, also known as Tibbly, took over from Heath Streak as the country’s captain. Then he became the youngest Test captain in cricket history at the age of 20 in 2003.
He played 28 Test matches and 150 one-day internationals (ODIs) for Zimbabwe, only to retire at the age of 29 in July 2012. Of course he had reached a cricketer’s prime, but the game needed him.
One of the highlights of his career was his man-of-the-match performance in 2005 against Bangladesh, when he made 85 runs (not out) and 153 runs to help Zimbabwe draw the Test. His only other Test victory was against Bangladesh in 2011, when Zimbabwe returned to the format after a six-year exile.
Taibu’s outspoken nature was highlighted before that match as he slammed the board for not doing enough to promote cricket in the country.
He was picked while still in his teens as a potential long-term successor as wicketkeeper-batsman to Andy Flower. While he did not reach the heights Flower did, he forged a solid career.
He finished as the country’s fourth-highest run-getter in ODIs and only Flower has effected more dismissals than him as a one-day wicketkeeper for Zimbabwe.
After being frustrated and disappointed a lot of times by the Zimbabwe Cricket management, Taibu decided to swop his bat and the glove for the Bible.
Another player who got bowled out soon after Taibu was Kyle Jarvis. Jarvis made both his Test and ODI debut in August 2011 at the age of 22 when Zimbabwe played Bangladesh in Harare. When the dependable right-arm fast bowler announced his retirement, it came as a shocker to many cricket lovers and followers.
This was a few days before the Pakistan series in Zimbabwe. A week before announcing his retirement he had clashed with the board over payment issues.
He was set to surpass Streak as the fastest bowler in Zimbabwe. This was a few days before the Pakistan series in Zimbabwe. He dumped the pitch at the age of 24 and he played eight Test matches took 30 wickets at an avarage of 31,73 and 27 wickets in 24 ODIs. He also played nine Twenty20 (T20s) in which he picked up 10 wickets. Jarvis quit international cricket to pursue a county and global Twenty20s (T20) career.
He got a three-year contract with English county, Lancashire. Jarvis said it was better for him to go and play cricket where he knew that he was guaranteed a job. After all, there is financial security there. The latest wicket to fall for Zimbabwe is the husband to former Miss Zimbabwe Oslie Muringai, Stuart Matsikenyeri. Matsikenyeri made his international debut against Pakistan in November 2002, opening the batting. He participated in the 2003 World Cup, although he only played one game. He is 30 years old now.
He was one of the country’s brightest young prospects when he made his debut for Zimbabwe as a 19-year-old against Pakistan 11 years ago. Matsikenyeri went on to earn 112 ODIs and eight Test caps for his country. He opted to retire from professional cricket career to look for a better job elsewhere.
He was the captain of Mashonaland Eagles in the last ended franchise domestic season.
A good season it was for his franchise. On the bat, they averaged slightly above 50 and also won the 50 overs tournament.
Matsikenyeri is arguably one of the experienced players in the national team to emerge from the streets of Highfield.
He was also promising to deliver for the national team when got bowled out while he was looking solid to score a big one for his country.
So, this is the sad story of young Zimbabwe cricketers who quit before they were celebrated.
And the big question is why at a younger age?
Sachin “the little master” Tendulukar retired at 40 years of age after nearly a quarter of a century of playing cricket, with more than 34 000 international runs against his name to go with a slew of batting records.
Sanath Jayasuriya of Sri Lanka retired in his forties and so were Ricky Ponting of Australia, Anil Kumble and Muttiah Muralitharan of India and Sri Lanka at their late thirties.
That is just a list of some international cricketers who retired. The average retirement age of Zimbabwe players is 28 while in other countries its 38 — a big difference.
Surely that proves there is something wrong with our cricket administration.
There are quite a number of Zimbabwe-born players who have also opted to go and play cricket in other countries due to maladministration at Zimbabwe Cricket (ZC).
Over the years Zimbabwe has produced very good players like Charles Coventry who once held a world record of 194 runs vs Bangladesh, Craig Richard Ervine, Gary Balance who now plays for England, Collin de Grandhomme who now plays for New Zealand, Njabulo “Papa” Ncube who recently relocated to South Africa, Tafadzwa Ngulube who is now in Cape Town, former Zimbabwe U-19 player Solomon Mire who is currently playing in the famous Australian T20 big bash and Tinashe “Beefy” Mhora a big hitter of the cricket ball who was also promising to be the Zim’s Chris Gayle. My list is endless because I have only mentioned a few who have at least represented the country at some point.
There are many other franchise and club players who are quitting and others going to look for greener pastures like former Tuskers and Mountaneers wicket keeper Cunningham Ncube, Tuskers opening batsman Mbekezeli Mabuza and Emakhandeni bowler Abraham Nare who have also crossed the borders to fend for their families through cricket.
Here are the main reasons why our beloved cricketers get out early:
- Players do not get their money on time while the office staff gets paid well on time,
- Players only get offered short-term contracts, only seven months, meaning, spending the rest of the year jobless,
- During off season they do not have contracts, but they are expected to attend practice, pay their rents, feed their families, pay school fees and others even have extended families to look after.
Let us have it in mind that these guys are professionals.
They cannot do any other job other than cricket during the season. Even if the season is off, they have to stay fit and also work on their batting, bowling and fielding skills. When the season is on, there is no time for that.
The reason why they get out so early is clear and obvious as many cricketers in the country are not happy with the cricket body failing to give them long-term contracts and paying them on time. Some players still have not been paid their money from the last World Cup, in 2007.
Soon, someone has to act to protect cricket in this country. I wonder what the administrators at ZC are being paid for.
The solution to this is to give back the game to the owners; and who are the owners?
The owners of the game are the people who have played this game and also those with the passion for the beautiful game of cricket.
There is no room for thieves and tricksters bent on destroying talent.
We need to give back to the owners because they will understand the needs of the players. They have been there and done that.
Their understanding of cricket issues on and off the field is more acceptable.
Some of the administrators do not even know what a wicket is!
In Zimbabwe we are lucky to have our very own legends like Heath Streak, Mluleki Nkala, Grant Flower, Wayne James, David Mutendere, Matsikenyeri and Mpumelelo Mbangwa. These guys have what it takes to take over the reins at ZC.
Please Zimbabweans let’s all unite and save our game. Forget about the past, open a new fresh page and work together.
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