Taylor makes IPL grade

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NATIONAL cricket team captain Brendan Taylor became only the third Zimbabwe international cricketer to sign for an Indian Premier League (IPL) franchise after being snapped up by the Sunrisers Hyderabad during the 2014 Pepsi IPL Player Auction held at the ITC Gardenia in Bengaluru yesterday.

DANIEL NHAKANISO

Retired off-spinner Ray Price was the last Zimbabwean player to feature in the IPL as a late inclusion for Mumbai Indians owing to injuries, but since then, no local players have been seriously considered for the money-spinning cricket league.

Former Zimbabwe captain Tatenda Taibu was the first Zimbabwean to play in the IPL when he represented the Kolkata Knight Riders at the first edition of the tournament in 2008. Taibu had built a reputation in a successful career as a wicketkeeper batsman.

Yesterday Taylor, who had missed out in previous IPL auctions, became the latest local star to join an IPL franchise after being auctioned to Sunrisers Hyderabad for a base price of $48 321. The solid opening batsman, who celebrated his 28th birthday last week, said he was delighted to have finally made the grade.

“It really hasn’t sunk in yet,” an elated Taylor told NewsDay Sport. “It’s still a bit surreal, but I feel very honoured and lucky to be part of this prestigious tournament.”

“I’ve missed out the last few years and it’s nice to finally be rewarded after all the hard work. It was a very special moment for me and I’m very grateful.”

Taylor, who has played 23 Twenty20 (T20) internationals, scoring at an average of 26.16 runs, said he was hopeful that his breakthrough would see other local players making the grade in the lucrative competition which has eluded local talent in the last few years.

“Absolutely I know we have the talent and I hope the players keep developing. There’s no reason why more local players cannot be involved in the future. They’ve got so much to offer,” he said.
Taylor has built a reputation as a reliable wicketkeeper/batsman which has seen him featuring in domestic T20 competitions in New Zealand and Bangladesh.

He will be joined at the Hyderabad-based franchise by a host of fellow overseas players such as vice-captain Darren Sammy, the West Indies skipper, Proteas star paceman Dale Steyn, Indian star Shikhar and Australia’s David Warner.

Taylor and all-rounder Elton Chigumbura were the only Zimbabwean cricketers out of eight who had made themselves available for the IPL auction when the preliminary list was curtailed to a 511-player final list yesterday. Chigumbura will be hoping to attract offers on the second day of the auction today.  Taylor said his major focus was now on the upcoming ICC World T20 competition to be held in Bangladesh next month.

“Right now our main focus is the T20 World Cup and we are ready to go out there and represent our country. That’s the main goal for us and I believe we will go there and do our best,” he said.

Local players have recently been at loggerheads with Zimbabwe Cricket (ZC) over unpaid wages and bonuses which resulted in the domestic T20 competition failing to take off on Monday as scheduled.

The impasse however came to an end yesterday after ZC finally paid the players and Taylor said he was happy the dispute was finally over.

“I understand that the money that the players were owed has come through. It’s nice that everyone is now working together. We can now focus as a group and work towards getting ourselves ready for what will be a very big tournament. The guys put in the hard work as individuals to ensure that they improve in all aspects of their game with the goal of being fully prepared for the T20 World Cup,” said Taylor.