Brendan Ross Murray Taylor
February 06, 1986, Harare
Right hand bat
Right arm offbreak
Brendan Taylor, a wicketkeeper-batsman and statistically one of the finest players that Zimbabwe has ever produced, abandoned Zimbabwe's international set-up when he played his final game against India in their last Group B game of the 2015 World Cup. Taylor, disillusioned with international cricket, signed a three-year Kolpak deal with Nottinghamshire which made him ineligible to play for Zimbabwe while that contract is in effect. He made his decision slightly open-ended, not entirely ruling out the possibility that he might one day return to the fold. And he did just that.
"I was concerned about the future of Zimbabwe cricket and with the administration side of it. I felt people were not qualified enough to run Zimbabwe cricket officially and just the way we were treated as players. It was really difficult to try and play the best cricket you could and deal with the issues."
Those who doubted that he would ever return were proved wrong midway through his final season at Notts when he gained permission for an early release, citing homesickness: his wife Kelly had remained in Zimbabwe with their four young sons. He had a more optimistic attitude towards Zimbabwe cricket, too, anticipating that affairs would be better run on and off the field. At 31, he returned to Test cricket, against West Indies in Bulawayo, nearly three years after his previous innings.
Since making his debut in April 2004, Taylor was involved in almost every ODI - the format Zimbabwe play most often - his country has taken part in. In 2008, he missed out on 17 ODIs after making himself unavailable because of a dispute with the board and a year before that he was dropped for the last match of a series in Bangladesh and the return home series because of poor form. But, by and large, 216 matches across all formats (167 of them ODIs with a batting average of 34.82) told its own story.
But Taylor fell out with Stephen Mangongo, an uncompromising Zimbabwe coach. Firstly, he was stripped off the captaincy in July 2013 when Zimbabwe Cricket suffered one of its regular restructurings and the leadership was split with Elton Chigumbura assuming control in the limited-overs formats. He later relinquished the wicketkeeping role because Mangongo asserted that he preferred "the best man for the job, not a part-timer". Finally, in August 2014, he was dropped against South Africa when few anticipated such a move. "It's a professional sport, there is always pressure. It is not Boozer's XI," Mangongo said pointedly. Eight weeks before the World Cup, Mangongo was sacked and redeployed with the Under-19s but Taylor's mind was made up.
He was the second Zimbabwe player to go Kolpak after their Test comeback with Kyle Jarvis also signing for Lancashire.
Taylor was appointed captain after the 2011 World Cup, as Zimbabwe worked towards a return from a self-imposed exile from Test cricket. He led them to a successful Test comeback later that year, in which he also scored his maiden century, and to a win over Pakistan a month later. Under Taylor, Zimbabwe seemed a renewed force, despite a sparse fixture list and struggles away from home. As one of the senior-most players in the squad, Taylor played an important part in unifying the players in their off-field battles over unpaid salaries and the formation of a players' association.
Taylor shot to prominence at Cape Town on September 12, 2007, his ice-cool 60 not out carrying Zimbabwe to an incredible five-wicket win over Australia in the ICC World Twenty20. Taylor marshalled a tense run-chase with the sort of sang froid that few had ever credited him with.
As a young cricketer, he was nurtured by Iain Campbell, father of Alistair, at the well-known Lilfordia primary school near Harare, was a regular choice for national age-group teams and played in two Under-19 World Cups. He made his first-class debut for Mashonaland A at the age of 15; the following year he scored 200 not out in the B Division of the Logan Cup, and he was fast-tracked into the Zimbabwe national team against Sri Lanka in 2003-04 at the age of 18 after the withdrawal of the so-called rebel players. As a batsman he was soon well respected by the opposition, but tended to get out when well set. Poor footwork early in an innings was also a handicap at the start of his career, but he worked to improve that and in November 2009 struck his maiden one-day hundred.
That knock proved something of a turning point for him, and in the year that followed he struck centuries against Sri Lanka and South Africa and proved to be Zimbabwe's stand-out batsman at the 2011 World Cup, his trademark uppercut to third man one of the lasting images of the tournament. His star continued to rise as Zimbabwe readied themselves for a return to Test cricket, and in June 2011 he was named captain of the national side.
The additional responsibility of captaincy, which he had always fancied, worked wonders for his batting, as he scored four centuries in his first seven Tests in charge, after scoring none in his ten previous Tests. He also scored hundreds in each innings against Bangladesh in Harare in 2013, thus becoming the first from Zimbabwe, and the 12th in all, to achieve this feat.
In July 2014, as part of ZC's split captaincy plan, he retained the Test leadership while Elton Chigumbura took over the limited-overs games. Though he's not very swift in the field, he has a safe pair of hands and kept wicket for Zimbabwe fairly often before Richmond Mutumbami and Regis Chakabva's progress as wicketkeepers allowed him to concentrate more fully on his batting.
Taylor's move to Nottinghamshire did not go altogether smoothly. His Championship displays were highly inconsistent. He also caused consternation by falling asleep in an unlocked car after his celebrations of Nottinghamshire's progress to the semi-finals of the Royal London Cup in 2015 went haywire. Taylor had to be woken by police after a Nottingham businessman opened his unlocked Chevrolet Matiz to find Taylor sleeping off a long night close to the Trent Bridge ground. He escaped charges. At least before he departed he managed to pick up a winners' medal in the 2017 Royal London Cup final.
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