Some cricket autobiographies make you laugh; some – sadly – bore you; some give you an insight and understanding of the player and; some make you sit up, take notice, make you feel that you cant believe what you are reading and inspire you to find out more. Keeper of Faith by Tatenda Taibu, for me falls into the last category for me.
It charts his journey from a young boy in the Highfield area of Harare to discovering cricket; developing as a player and a man; finding love; his battles with the men at the top of Zimbabwe Cricket and the Government, and even the players in his own changing rooms – and, finally, finding his faith and his career after playing.
Each chapter in his life is mapped out in a way that allows you to see and feel how Taibu is feeling, what he is thinking at the time and the impact it had on him and his family. He is honest, admitting the mistakes he made and the regrets he has about certain events. The emotion that shines throughout the book, however, is the pride he has for his achievements and the career he forged in cricket, his life and beyond.
It would be easy for Taibu to shy away from the political issues in Zimbabwe at the time of his playing career, but he doesn’t. He talks openly about how people tried to use him and his race for their own agenda, use him against others within Zimbabwean cricket. The integrity that he displayed in the face of huge pressure deserves recognition and, when you consider his age at the time, even more so.
One reason Taibu was able to resist the corruption, infighting, bribes and intimidation is his Christian faith, which you see grow through the book as it grew in him throughout his life. He tells interesting stories about how his faith helped him in his darkest times, and how it sometimes made his team mates feel uncomfortable, stood him aside from them; but also how, in times of need, they came to him for counsel. How many marriages he saved with his guidance and his teachings only he will know, but I think relationships in Zimbabwean cricket between husbands and wives are better for Taibu’s intervention. Although he is not a minister, I am sure he will continue to counsel people whenever possible.
Having read the book cover to cover, I would love to have counsel with Taibu myself. I would like to speak to him about the things he saw, the resilience he showed that helped him come through it and then prosper on the other side.
Things that he describes in his book, may have broken other men; or may have made them very wealthy, but in the end broken them. I always believe you should leave anything you have involvement with in a better way than when you found it. I believe reading his book Taibu has left Zimbabwean cricket in a better state than when he found it, despite the best efforts of others.
Whatever pushed him to get through everything and come out the other side, is a story worth telling and I am glad he has. It’s an interesting read and one that has inspired me to find out more about cricket in Zimbabwe as well as the exhilarating, fascinating and intriguing country itself.
Keeper of Faith: Conflict and God in Zimbabwe’s Age of Extremes by Tatenda Taibu
Publisher: deCoubertin Books (23 May 2019)
Available now at Amazon and deCoubertin Books