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Brendan Taylor's Early Retirement A Sign Of Growing Crisis In Cricket

14/03/2015 10:42 PM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST
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Zimbabwe's Brendan Taylor celebrates after scoring a century while batting against India during their Cricket World Cup Pool B match in Auckland, New Zealand, Saturday, March 14, 2015. (AP Photo/Ross Setford)

There was a poignancy attached to Sunday's match, which had only an oblique connection with the Indian team, its players and the authoritative win that made it six-out-of-six in the league stage of this tournament.

In fact it has to do with somebody who finished on the losing side, despite, in my opinion, being the man of the match. As is convention, Suresh Raina was named MoM, but there was no denying that Brendan Taylor was the hero of the day.

There was nobody who wouldn't have felt some remorse for Brendan Taylor, the Zimbabwe captain, who signed off his international career with a spectacular century. The sadness wasn't about his finishing on the losing side, but that he was quitting at 29!

brendan taylor zimbabwe "Brendan Taylor celebrates after scoring a century against India during their Cricket World Cup Pool B match in Auckland, New Zealand, Saturday, March 14, 2015."

Taylor has been the pre-eminent player of his side, hitting two centuries on the trot, one better than the other. The first came against Ireland in a thrilling run chase where Zimbabwe sadly fell a few runs short. On Sunday, against arguably the best side in the tournament (yet) he made the second which he would rate even better.

Apart from being the mainstay of the batting, Taylor also keeps wickets, like his predecessor Andy Flower and like Kumar Sangakkara and MS Dhoni in the current tournament. To Taylor's credit, he doesn't suffer in comparison to these cult figures.

Both Sangakkara and Dhoni, it must be remembered, have strong support in their respective teams. When Flower was playing, Zimbabwe were still a force to reckon with. For Taylor, it almost always has been a one-man show.

Taylor's retirement does not mean Zimbabwe will become a no-show; to use a time worn cliché, the show goes on. Yet players of his calibre are not easy to come by and this will obviously affect Zimbabwe's cricketing fortunes going ahead.

The moot question is why should a 29-year-old give up on his career when in prime form. After all, Taylor is not going to stop playing the sport. In fact he has signed up for three years with an English county.

Taylor is not in the Indian Premier League, of course, but could be a prime pick in the next auction because all-rounders (wicket-keeper batsmen qualify as that) are like gold dust.

If the buzz going around is correct, he is also keen to play the T20 leagues that abound. Taylor is not in the Indian Premier League, of course, but could be a prime pick in the next auction because all-rounders (wicket-keeper batsmen qualify as that) are like gold dust.

From the timing of the decision - announced on the eve of the match against India -- it would appear that Taylor made his mind up suddenly. But in fact, as sources suggest, he has been thinking about this for a while.

It is understandable that a high quality cricketer would get frustrated when surrounded by unending mediocrity. But Taylor's decision seems to stem from the unhappiness with his country's cricket administration.

In that, he is not the first Zimbabwe player to quit at a young age. The Flower brothers still had a few years of cricket in them as did Heath Streak, Alistair Campbell, Murray Godwin, Henry Olonga and a few others.

I must confess to not having enough knowledge about the socio-political reasons in Zimbabwe that have prompted so many retirements so I'll restrict myself to cricket: this has certainly left the country very poorly placed. The fact that Zimbabwe have been suspended as a Test playing nation only makes it worse.

But it is not only the Zimbabwe's struggles to field an international side which make the future of bilateral cricket grave. In recent times players from the Caribbean countries - either of their own volition or because of action from authority - have been unavailable to play at the international sport too.

For instance, Dwayne Bravo and Kieron Pollard were dropped for this World Cup. This has affected both the box office value of the tournament as well as the strength of the West Indies team. This has also encouraged players to look for livelihood elsewhere, mainly the T20 leagues,

It's not that the T20 leagues are necessarily detrimental to the sport. Not too long back, the New Zealand cricket establishment was bust. But for the IPL and Big Bash - apart from English county cricket that can accommodate only so many - several Kiwi players would have given up on the sport. Ditto West Indies cricket, till the recent crisis.

But it can safely be said that despite the seeming good health, cricket is in a crisis of sorts, which the game's minders would do well to grapple with ASAP.

Cricket New Zealand appears to have reworked its agenda and administration wonderfully in the past few years to restore the game to some health in the country. That's not the case with West Indies, and to a large extent, even Pakistan and Sri Lanka - and certainly not Zimbabwe.

How sport can thrive is a complex matter, located in the social, economic, political and philosophical dynamics of a country - not forgetting `administration with a vision'. A comprehensive understanding of this would require extensive research and is beyond the scope of this article.

But it can safely be said that despite the seeming good health, cricket is in a crisis of sorts, which the game's minders would do well to grapple with ASAP.

There are very few countries that play the sport. And if there is nothing to hold back players like Brendan Taylor from quitting at 29, it drives a nail - however small it may be - in the coffin.

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