Zimbabwe v Pakistan, 2nd Test, Harare September 8, 2013

Split captaincy or non-keeping leader?

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

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 correspondent

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Jawwad on September 9, 2013, 18:45 GMT

    Brendon Taylor is the star of Zimbabwe cricket. I hope he performs well and in process other teams will take note of their improvement. I am still dumbfounded why PCB is not taking the initiative to invite Zimbabwe to tour Pakistan. Keep in mind, Pakistan is a top cricketing nation and has great facilities along with strong regional and domestic teams. It will do Zimbabwe a whole lot of good to do a full tour, play side matches with domestic teams and get a feel of sub continent cricket as future resides there. Who else is going to invite Zimbabwe.? Certainly not India (due to monetary non-gains I suppose).

  • Simba on September 9, 2013, 12:34 GMT

    Well guys after reading your comments i think that there is a bit of over criticism and emotion. Well if you read paragraphs 3 and 4 of the above article you would see that Taylor's batting has struggled as a keeper captain. Now you would agree with me that keeping the wicket demands quite a bit of physic as compared to getting the rare two three overs of right arm off break. Also remember that Taylor has been under the radar for lack of fitness (endurance) for a while now. Now you would naturally expect him to struggle with the bat when he keeps as compared to when he doesnt. And please donot compared Taylor with Andy Flower, he is the only true beacon we have actually had the other we just come and like Taylor so that is unfair. Flower also grow up and matured in a professional cricket setup one that was far more superior to the one that Taylor has experienced all his career so.. Flower vs Taylor no no no that like a Mike Tyson vs Mayweather never going to happen!

  • ZCF on September 9, 2013, 10:05 GMT

    Wow @Meiji! Bit over the top don't you think. I don't remember ever forming my lineup minus Taylor in the last 8 years whenever he was available - yes even at 18-19! No place in a substandard Zimbabwe? There's no way Carlisle, Wishart, Guy, the Rennies and even Alistair Campbell are better bats than Brendan(outside the top 3 batting positions of course).

    Taylor had a horrible run - stretching over a long period of time, and had he not been captain he should've been dropped, just like Vusi was in the West Indies(and Hami before). But like Vusi, it wouldn't have been a case of being dropped, but rather "rested" to reflect&refresh with a view to responding better.

    His rot was since before India. Why he wasn't "rested" is not entirely his fault. It's also unfair for Taylor and those viewing him to even speak of him as an int wicketkeeper because everything about him behind the stumps is wrong. His an overly used part-timer, justified in LOIs. Unlike Malcolm, he should still be in the XI!

  • Justin on September 9, 2013, 9:26 GMT

    It didn't weigh Andy Flower down, but Andy Flower finished his career at the top of his game being regarded if not as the greatest wicketkeeper/batsman in Test/ODI history, certainly one of the greatest.

    Brendan Taylor isn't in the same ball park and would only get a game playing for a weakened sub-international-standard Zimbabwe and he is only still in the team because he's the captain.

    Simply put if Brendan Taylor wasn't the captain he would have been dropped during the series against India. 35 runs in five innings with three ducks on placid home pitches against a friendly attack was just pathetic.

    During his career Andy Flower would have walked into any international side as a batsmen yet alone as a highly competent wicketkeeper/batsman.

    Not only has Brendan Taylor's batting not been up to scratch, his keeping has been as poor as anyone I have seen over the past thirty years - right up there with Kamran Akmal at his very worst.

    Brendan Taylor - very lucky to still be playing.

  • ZCF on September 9, 2013, 8:56 GMT

    To my knowledge, Taylor's appointment as captain was more a window dressing exercise, rather than to serve productively in that capacity. He was never a captain at franchise level, being behind Vusi at the Rhinos. I don't understand the references of him being inspirational because his charges don't view him as a leader, and he isn't one. Individually as a batsman Taylor was always improving so runs were expected from him. He will continue to excel. That it's happened when he's been captain is purely a coincidence. I see little evidence of him inspiring the bulk of his players to new heights.

    By saying he's less of a stragetic(like Hamilton) and more of an inspirational leader is sidetracking the issue. Taylor is woeful at captaincy. Tactically bereft. Zim should just hand Hamilton "Clive Lloyd" Masakadza the reigns. A true leader. What we saw was real inspiration. Players played to their captain's demands, and no bowler overruled him with filed placings as they often do Taylor.

  • Dummy4 on September 9, 2013, 8:56 GMT

    first of all, who cares? about Zim as they are the lowly ranked team now for a long time, and we dont see them coming up in a near future, having said that I would like to say that the captaincy is not such a thing that you give to anybody. its important to groom-up your captains. I agree that Masakadza has been serving as a senior player so he should deputy Taylor.

  • Dr Satendra on September 9, 2013, 6:12 GMT

    For a change, it's good to see Zimbabwe facing competition for places. History suggests that players become better captain during their second stint. Hamilton captained commendably but as seen in his ODI captaincy period, his batting suffers. Taylor, on the other hand, thrive on Captaincy challenges and has done remarkably well as a batsman and captain.

    With due regards to Richmond's keeping, I think in this test Taylor can afford to keep, bat and Captain the side so as to allow a better all-rounder (Williams) in the playing XI as they compete to square the series.

  • Dummy4 on September 9, 2013, 5:39 GMT

    what about sean williams.he is a good alrounder.zimbabwe might use this one,so that there batting lineup can increase.......