Ross Taylor – a tale of two innings

New Zealand v West Indies - 2nd Test: Day 3
Taylor pulls with disdain

I have followed Ross Taylor’s career for a while, but not always for cricketing reasons. When he first arrived at the international scene, he was talked about as the next big New Zealand batsman.

Two years later, he scored a breezy 151 against India in a Test where Jesse Ryder announced himself by thumping 201. The reputation of his on-side stroke play preceded him and his slog sweep made him an instant household name among the Red Army at Bangalore during the early seasons of the Indian Premier League. I was more interested, however, in his name, especially the ‘Luteru’ and ‘Poutoa Lote’ parts, which speak of his Samoan ancestry.

I liked the fact he is March-born (like I am) and saw in him, while he took time off to come to terms with post-captaincy life, something of the sentimentalist I have always been. I thought he looked like Dominic West, that charming celluloid antagonist with the smashing looks and the refined speech, and I like West. I learned that he finds a glass of red relaxing (just as I do myself).

And then, he made that 290 at Perth in 2015.

It was not Taylor’s breakthrough innings, for it was rather late in his career for it to be that, nor his most fluent, though he struck at 70-plus. It was, purists might argue, played on a WACA wicket where Warner had made 254 before Taylor even marked his guard and which had become a sleeping beauty in recent times.

Still, the innings came against the Australians, who have generally ambushed their trans-Tasman neighbours in bluster and performance, who were 1-0 up, and against a bowling attack that had Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood, and Nathan Lyon, with a fading Mitchell Johnson to boot.

It followed a period when Taylor had been away from the game due to a groin injury and was probably played on an eye and half as the pterygium on his left eye had begun to give him trouble. It was, after concessions have been made and contexts analysed till kingdom come, TWO HUNDRED AND NINETY RUNS in a Test match against Australia in Australia (an individual record) and put me in my place as a fan – as opposed to a personage in the ilk – of Ross Taylor.

Two and half years later, as I followed Ross Taylor’s undefeated 181, which helped New Zealand upstage England’s 335 in a one-day chase for the ages in Dunedin, I was reminded of his Perth marathon. The innings were similar in that both were played when Taylor was on a comeback trail. Taylor was physically restrained in both innings; because of his eye in Perth and because of a minor injury in Dunedin, but found a way to pull through on both occasions.

Each of those innings gave him a career-best in the format of the game in which it was played. Either of them may also be viewed as a microcosm of an international career that has encountered its share of interruptions, controversies, and slumps in form, but has yielded over 6000 Test runs and 7000 one-day runs at averages in the high-forties.

In another country, a wide range of complimentary adjectives might dress Ross Taylor, the batsman; in New Zealand, a lovely nation that turns out the best-behaved yet most resilient of cricketers, Ross Taylor is just an individual who has made the most of his considerable gifts.

Taylor plays a wristy flick
Taylor plays a wristy flick

It is difficult to know what else Ross Taylor, now 34, will go on to achieve in the game that he has graced with understated resilience and dazzling stroke play. His hunger for runs seems undiminished and his rich vein of form in one-day cricket should be good news for New Zealand fans looking forward to the World Cup in 2019.

Taylor would love to see Williamson lift the Cup or to do his best, at the very least, in ensuring that the Black Caps are among the top contenders for it. If he does that, he will have overtaken Stephen Fleming as New Zealand’s most prolific batsmen in one-day cricket. Now, that would be some beginning of the end, wouldn’t it, to Luteru Taylor’s fine cricketing career?

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