BY DANIEL NHAKANISO
THE month of April will be a defining one for Zimbabwe’s first black captain and Test cricket’s, youngest captain, Tatenda Taibu, who is set to launch two huge projects in two different cities, on two different continents.
A legend in Zimbabwe cricket, Taibu will reinforce his commitment to churning out the next generation of local cricketers through the Bill Flower Cricket Academy to be unveiled at Harare’s Alexandra Sports Club on Thursday.
Taibu is also putting the final touches to his much-awaited autobiography to be launched in Liverpool, England, during the Easter holidays.
Named after one of Zimbabwe’s finest development coaches and father of legendary brothers Grant and Andy Flower, the Bill Flower Cricket Academy will cater for young cricketers (both male and female), providing them with intensive coaching and mentorship.
It is the second project being spearheaded by Taibu after the Rising Stars Academy, which he created during his stint as Zimbabwe Cricket’s convenor of selectors in order to give emerging players and Under-19 cricketers a pathway to the national side.
In an interview with The Sports Hub last week, Taibu, however, said the new academy’s concept was different from the Rising Stars Academy which was dismantled by Zimbabwe Cricket last year despite its success within a short period of time.
“The Bill Flower Academy will be totally different from the Rising Stars Academy project, this will be free for everyone who wants to participate — the young, middle-aged, old, whoever wants to play cricket. It’s also open to women’s cricket as well,” he said.
“Further to that, the young boys and girls that will be privileged to be in this academy will definitely have results coming their way. I know that from the experience of coaching kids in the UK. I have several kids that have passed through my hands and gone on to represent their countries, so I know that my coaching methods will definitely benefit young boys and girls.”
Taibu said he decided to name the Bill Flower Cricket Academy in honour of one of his earliest mentors, who, besides raising two world-class cricketers, also had great passion for the community, and black cricket development.
Flower Snr, who now lives in England, where his oldest son, Andy, coached the national team there between 2009 and 2014, played a key role in Taibu’s early development while at Chipembere Primary School in Highfield.
“I’m very close to all the coaches who have coached me up until now, I am close to the coaches that coached me even when I was still growing up and I know the efforts that they put in my cricket to be where I am right now and I have always wanted to do something special for each one of them,” Taibu explained.
“I thought of Bill Flower to be the first one to get this special gesture when I was just remembering what he did for us growing up and what he tried to do even for the black community in opening an academy in Mabvuku, a place, which had not known cricket. I just thought whatever they tried to do does not show in any way at the moment and that is what motivated me to start this academy because it doesn’t feel right to me that all the hard work they put has just gone down the drain without their names being remembered,” he said.
The move to launch the academy comes after Taibu recently completed his first comeback season to professional cricket in Sri Lanka, six years after retiring from international cricket in 2012 at age 29.
The 35-year-old legendary wicketkeeper/batsman, who played 28 Tests and 150 ODIs, lined up for the Sri Lankan domestic side Baduraliya CC during the justended first-class season, where he put in a number of good performances with the bat and behind the stumps.
He, however, lamented his failure to convert his starts into big scores like he used to do during his international career.
“Sri Lanka was a tour that happened because of a conversation that I was having with my son and that’s how I ended up being there. I really enjoyed it, I found getting back to professional cricket after being away for six years fairly easy, which I am pleased with. The only thing that my body or brain could not remember is to convert starts into big hundreds, which I used to do before I retired from international cricket in 2012,” he said.
After the conclusion of the Sri Lankan first-class season, Taibu will return to action with the Liverpool-based Formby Cricket Club as player/coach.
The former Zimbabwe cricket captain also spoke of his autobiography.
“My autobiography, Keeper of Faith, is going to be launched during the Easter weekend in Liverpool. We just did the final bits last week where we were choosing the pictures and finalising the cover. The whole book has been done and the foreword was done by Andy Flower.”
Taibu said the autobiography, which he started working on three years ago, focuses on his upbringing, his early breakthrough into international cricket as an 18-year-old and early retirement at the age of 29.
“It touches pretty much on all the high points of my life thus far. It touches on growing up, the cricket side of things, the politics, events that happened when I decided to leave cricket for two years, the politics around that, it talks of the comeback, IPL (Indian Premier League) and my decision to leave cricket on a religious calling and what happened during that period and my subsequent return.
“I am really happy that I started this project in 2015 and it’s coming to fruition, so I’m really looking forward to the final piece and the launch, which I believe will be quite good,” Taibu said.