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Brendan Taylor is an inspirational captain but statistical evidence suggests his treble role is a concern because he is much more effective as a batsman without the extra task of keeping wicket
Firdose Moonda in Harare
September 8, 2013
Brendan Taylor will return to lead Zimbabwe for the second Test against Pakistan and might also keep wicket, raising concern whether the triple role will deny Zimbabwe the best from one of their key batsmen. Taylor will slot back in to his No. 4 position which also leaves Zimbabwe with a conundrum over who to drop.
The promising form of Malcolm Waller, who had been struggling before the first Test, and the debut success of Sikandar Raza could see both retained. That would mean Richmond Mutumbami may be forced to hand over the keeping gloves to Taylor as Zimbabwe look to strengthen their batting against an attack they are obviously wary of.
Taylor leads by example in all formats. However, statistical evidence suggests the triple role is a concern because he is much more effective without the extra task of keeping wicket. Taylor has kept and captained in only one of his 18 Tests, in March this year against West Indies, when he scored 33 and 7 on a forgettable tour for Zimbabwe's batsmen. In seven other Tests as captain, he averages 60.00, compared to an overall average of 34.76. All four of his Test centuries have also come in these seven games.
He averages 58.33 in the 14 ODIs in which he has led without doing keeping duty compared to only 23.23 in the 14 when he has been both captain and keeper. The corresponding figures are 37.25 in six Twenty20s as against only 14.00 in eight.
The obvious solution seems to be to relieve him of the gloves but Mutumbami, while an accomplished keeper, has not made a compelling case with the bat. Mutumbami made 13 and 16 not out in the first Test against Pakistan and failed to impress in April against Bangladesh. Should Zimbabwe want to retain him, in order to free Taylor up, they may consider promoting Hamilton Masakadza up the order to open with Vusi Sibanda and leave Tino Mawoyo out.
Their other option - a drastic one that may only be turned to in the future - would be to consider splitting the captaincy. Masakadza, who stood in for Taylor during the first Test, would not turn his nose up at the possibility. "I wouldn't mind taking some of the pressure off Brendan in one format," Masakadza said. "The split captaincy is not something we've tried before, but if we did it, I wouldn't mind."
Already, six of the ten Test teams have different leaders for different formats with only India, Bangladesh, New Zealand and Zimbabwe keeping the same man in charge. Grant Flower, Zimbabwe's batting consultant, does not think the team is ready for something of that sort.
"I can't see us doing it in the near future, especially because Brendan has done a good job as captain," Flower said. "But we saw in this Test (that) Hamilton is a more than able deputy. He was pretty good, especially considering when he arrived at the ground on the first morning he thought he would only bat and bowl. But then he dealt with it very well and had some bright ideas."
Masakadza was informed he would have to take over from Taylor after the regular captain called coach Andy Waller and said he would not be able to play following the birth of his son on the eve of the match. Although Zimbabwe's captaincy has rotated between several current players in the last decade, Masakadza had not led them in a Test before last week. He had only captained for a brief period in ODIs in 2008-2009, so the experience was fairly new to him. "I hadn't done it for a while so it was really quite something but I enjoyed it," Masakadza said. "I think you age quicker than you're supposed to when you're captaining but it's something I wouldn't mind doing again."
While Taylor could be described as an inspirational captain whose batting prowess forms a key component in his ability to call his charges to action, Masakadza is a more of a strategic thinker. He was aggressive for large parts of the first Test, keeping men around the bat and rotating the strike bowlers well, and was also not afraid to experiment. At one point he brought Mutumbami up for a seamer to try and curb the Pakistan batsmen's reliance on footwork.
The only criticism which could be levelled at him was the same one that dogged everyone from Zimbabwe - the 40 minutes in which Younis Khan and No 11 Rahat Ali took the match away from them. One match, and a defeat at that, is not enough to merit Masakadza taking over but it has given the selectors something to think about as Zimbabwe plot the way forward.
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondentFeeds: Firdose Moonda
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