One of the finest players in the history of Zimbabwe cricket, Brendan Taylor, announced his retirement from international cricket after the third ODI against Ireland on 13th September.
"It's with a heavy heart that I'm announcing that tomorrow is my last game for my beloved country. My goal was to always leave the team in a better position as to when I first arrived back in 2004, I hope I have done that," he said as he revealed the news on his official social media handle.
The Civil Service Cricket Club in Belfast geared up to witness one of the greatest players to don the Zimbabwe jersey bid adieu to the sport on a gloomy Monday morning. Despite the rain set to dampen a fitting farewell, the two sides gave Taylor a special guard of honour as he walked out to open the innings, one last time in the red jersey.
The right-handed batsman first burst onto the scene in 2004 when the national cricket team was in turmoil due to the ongoing conflicts between the board and some of their prominent players. With many players refusing to play, the team handed debuts to the young and upcoming talent, including Taylor.
Ever since then, he has been an integral part of the Zimbabwean outfit and played a significant role in crafting some of their famous wins in the world arena.
Analysing the reason behind his steady growth
In a career spanning over 17 years at the highest level, Taylor was the prominent pillar in what has been an indifferent period for Zimbabwe cricket. His career coincided with a period of limited success for his side as compared to the heights they achieved in the decade before Taylor burst onto the scene. With over 9,900 runs across formats on the world stage, he single-handedly shouldered the bulk of the responsibility of the side in challenging conditions.
Taylor’s claim to fame at the international level was the last ball six that helped Zimbabwe clinch a crucial series win against Bangladesh in 2006. The six came in what was an 18-run last over off Bangladesh's budding pacer Mashrafe Mortaza who was to traumatize a nation like India in less than a year’s time.
The right-handed opening batsman followed this spectacular show with an unbeaten 60 off 45 balls to propel the team to upset the Australians in the inaugural edition of the World T20.
He was among the early adopters of the uppercut and with time gained an absolute mastery over it. Over the years, it became his signature shot and yielded massive dividends by exploiting the vacant area behind the wicket-keeper and the slip cordon.
The turning point
After consistently scoring runs across formats, Taylor upped his game a notch starting 2009 after smashing an unbeaten 118 against Bangladesh in Chittagong. The knock proved to be instrumental in unlocking his potential at the highest level.
The 35-year old followed this with a mammoth 145* against South Africa in 2010 and a Man of the Match performance in Zimbabwe's return to the Test circuit. The wicket-keeper batter was at the helm of affairs as Zimbabwe marked their return to the longest format of the game after a hiatus, against Bangladesh in Harare.
In the span of three years from 2009 to 2012, Taylor was third behind AB de Villiers and MS Dhoni in the list of most consistent wicket-keeping batsman in world cricket, averaging 46.7.
A lone warrior
In a team that struggled to keep up with the demands and the standard of international cricket, Taylor was the shining light. With an aim to carve a niche for Zimbabwe cricket in the world arena, Taylor single-handedly dealt with issues on and off the field.
Taking the reins of the side after the 2011 World Cup, he led Zimbabwe till the 2015 World Cup. Positive results were few and far but Taylor’s hardly let the team down. His final assignment as the leader of the pack ended in him amassing 433 runs in the 2015 World Cup that still stands to be the record for Zimbabwe in a World Cup.
The ardent fans of Indian cricket can never get over the scintillating knock he played in the group match of that event at Eden Park in Auckland. He anchored the innings with a sublime 138-run knock that laid a solid foundation for a massive first-innings total of 287 runs. As the story of Zimbabwe cricket went in that time, despite his heroics, inconsistent bowling and sloppy fielding ensured India registered a comfortable six-wicket win.
During his tenure as the leader of the side, one of the striking features was the freedom given to the players to go out and express themselves on the field. It was under his captaincy that Zimbabwe achieved their biggest win in the past 20-odd years by beating Pakistan in a Test in 2013.
Like a lot of Zimbabwe cricketers before him, being at loggerheads for most of his career with the administration on various issues, including financial stability, Taylor after the 2015 World Cup and moved to England. He returned in 2017 and a year later became the first Zimbabwe batsman to hit centuries in both innings of a Test twice. Taylor retires as the third all-time run-getter in international cricket for Zimbabwe after the Flower brothers. But, he beat them by scoring more hundreds (17) than any of his countrymen.
Legend of the game
The superman of world cricket, AB de Villiers rightly said in a tweet appreciating Taylor’s contribution of the game, “You’re a legend my friend! Well done on a great career on and off the field!
It is never easy to be a part of a team that is not consistently winning matches as the individual brilliance often goes unnoticed. However, the passion for the game and the sheer desire to represent the nation kept him going.
As he draws curtains to his illustrious career leading the charts with the most international hundreds for Zimbabwe, his impact on the young generation wanting to pursue the sport in the country is unmatched. Ryan Burl, the highest ranked Zimbabwean cricketer in the T20I Men’ all-rounder’s rankings, echoed the same sentiment when the news of Taylor’s retirement broke out.
The world of cricket will miss his infectious smile and his never say die attitude.