Steadfast Taylor bows to circumstance
Brendan Taylor was told to walk away from Zimbabwe Cricket 11 years ago. He stayed. He was told to walk away every year after that. He did not like being told what to do. He stayed.
For him, the politics of playing sport in Zimbabwe was secondary to the actual playing and he did not have any real reason to leave. In 2004, during the white-player walkout, Taylor was just out of high school, too young to fully understand the undercurrents but old enough to know playing international cricket was a big deal and the chance to do so was on his doorstep. He stayed.
After that, crisis snowballed into crisis. He stayed.
In the years that followed, Zimbabwe, the country, was thrown into turmoil. The economy lost so much money, cricket was among the last things it could think about. And in that time they lost so many Test matches - seven in 2005, five by an innings and then some - figuring out how to become competitive was also low down on the radar. They offered themselves up for exile. He stayed.
Salaries weren't paid. But there was almost nowhere in the country where it was any different. He stayed.
He looked for somewhere to go, briefly, and then stayed.
By 2008, sponsors were slowly trickling in and Zimbabwe had a plan to reintegrate into the global cricket community. Taylor's stay seemed worthwhile. They started playing a T20 franchise competition and built towards the 2011 World Cup. But then, they crashed out after only beating the smaller sides they faced. He stayed.
A Test comeback was around the corner. So staying was worthwhile. He led the side and remembers it as the best moment of his career, an "incredible feeling." He even stayed longer.
Series against Pakistan and New Zealand followed, and Zimbabwe Cricket was on the up. He stayed.
A tour to New Zealand tested their ability and brought Taylor to the attention of a franchise in that country. He was offered a T20 deal for one of their sides, which he accepted. There were rumours Taylor would consider moving to New Zealand but he returned to Zimbabwe.
That year, 2012, saw funds and tours dry up again. Salaries weren't paid. He stayed.
There was a World T20 to look forward to and although Zimbabwe crashed out of that, Taylor stayed.
More matches came in 2013 but only after more fighting about funds. Taylor stayed.
Shortly before the home series against Pakistan, Kyle Jarvis took up a Kolpak deal and left, citing financial security as a major reason for his decision. Taylor questioned the timing of his team-mate's decision and stayed.
His son, Mason, was born on the eve of the first Test. Taylor had been at the hospital and had to withdraw from the starting XI. But later that day, he went to Harare Sports Club to watch his team-mates and have a net. And stayed.
He returned for the next match. His wife Kelly and their new-born child were in attendance. They stayed too.
Somewhere in the midst of all of this Craig Ervine went to play club cricket in Ireland and Graeme Creamer quit cricket for golf.
A players' association was formed to lobby for salaries, which were not paid again. Taylor stayed.
Mid 2014, Zimbabwe Cricket (ZC) was restructured, the captaincy was split and Taylor was relieved of his duties as limited-overs leader. He stayed.
Zimbabwe hosted South Africa, Taylor made two low scores and was dropped for the third game, despite notching up a half-century against Afghanistan two innings before that. He stayed.
An eight-nil blanking across all formats to Bangladesh was the only preparation Zimbabwe had for the World Cup. Taylor stayed. But it was also the first time he thought of leaving. Seriously.
The situation was becoming untenable and even ZC knew it. As soon as the team returned home, they announced another overhaul.
So why now, when Zimbabwean cricket is again looking to get back on its feet, has Taylor finally decided to go?
Because now, enough things have mounted up and his reasons to go have become greater than his reasons to stay. Other people are not telling him what to do but circumstance is.
"It hasn't been an easy decision to make," Taylor said. "It's something that I discussed with my family and my wife, and after two-three months of doing that, I decided to go and play in England. I think all players tend to try and maximise a little bit. When you've got kids at home, you want to try and make sure they've got the best sort of upbringing that you can give them. That all sort of favoured the decision. I just want to go there and try to better myself as a cricketer, and at the end of the day, we're all trying to provide for families, and to me that's very important."
The good news for Zimbabwe fans is that Taylor could still go back. Nobody would dare tell him that, he already knows. "I don't think everything is lost after England, whether I continue to play on after those three years in England or come back to Zimbabwe." And stay? When he does return, you can bet he will.
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent