ROSS TAYLOR – ONE OF THE VERY FEW TO EXCEL IN ALL FORMATS
April 6, 2022: He could play power packed shots or charm the ball away from the fielders with elegant strokes. He excelled in all formats of the game emerging as one of the very few players to have a splendid record in Tests, ODIs and T-20 internationals. He enjoyed a special rapport with Indian spectators while playing with distinction for four IPL teams – Pune Warriors, Delhi Daredevils, Rajasthan Royals and Royal Challengers Bangalore. And when he finally called it a day on Monday after a glorious international career Ross Taylor could justifiably take his place as one of the finest cricketers that New Zealand have produced.
Certainly, when it comes to consistency Taylor is second to none among Kiwi batsmen. The very fact that he went 58 innings before notching up his first duck in Test cricket symbolizes this. In every format he maintained this consistent run so that his average remained high. But he also saw to it that the runs were scored quickly and this meant an impressive strike rate across formats. This was mainly because of his readiness to get on with it. He was always looking for runs. If they came through boundaries all the better but Taylor realized that the singles and twos were as important and he made every run count thanks to his whippet like running between the wickets. Indeed, he was an excellent judge of a run.
Figures don’t always tell the full story but in Taylor’s case the stats as impressive enough to underline his class and skill. Fittingly he is New Zealand’s highest run getter in Tests – 7683 at an average of 44.66. Not surprisingly he is also their highest run getter in ODIs – 8607 at an impressive average of 47.55 coupled with a matching strike rate of 83.32. And in T-20 internationals he is second only to Brendon McCullum with 1909 runs at an average of 26.15 with a strike rate of 122.37. When it comes to hundreds, he is No 1 among New Zealanders in ODIs with 21 and second to Kane Williamson in Tests with 19.
Taylor arrived on the scene when New Zealand were desperately looking for a stroke playing batsman like him in the wake of several batting stalwarts having retired. For the next 16 years he provided both style and substance to the New Zealand batting in abundant measure. Perhaps the best thing about Taylor was his temperament for he always came off when his side were in a bit of a bother whatever the format. And he played the rescue act with panache not as a grim attritional back to the wall fight.
Amidst all his breezy knocks Taylor’s most murderous assault came against Pakistan during the 2011 World Cup game at Pallekele. It was his 27th birthday and what a celebration he had! An attack consisting of Shoaib Akhtar, Abdul Razzaq, Shahid Afridi, Abdur Rehman and Umar Gul did not know what hit them as Pakistan conceded 92 runs off the last four overs of the New Zealand innings. Taylor helped himself to 55 runs from his last 13 deliveries. An Akhtar over went for 28, another from Razzaq 30 as Taylor raced to 131 not out from 124 balls. Even by ODI standards it was simply breathtaking stuff.
As already stated, Taylor could make the switch from format to format with astounding ease and a case in point is his 290 in the Test against Australia at Perth in 2015. The hosts led off with 559 for nine declared and New Zealand at 87 for two were in a spot of bother. Taylor joined Williamson and the two added 265 runs for the third wicket. After Williamson went for 166 Taylor carried on till he was last out at 624. His runs were made off 374 balls and he batted 9-1/2 hours for the highest score of his career. Little wonder then that he remained the fulcrum of New Zealand’s batting for well over a decade.
(Partab Ramchand is a veteran sports journalist, the views expressed here are personal.)