Sometimes, there comes a point in life when one must accept that you will always remain the second best. You like it or not, it is for the best that you accept the reality with grace and work towards being the best option for that second place. No one better than Ross Taylor can understand that in cricket at the moment. When he took off his international career for New Zealand in 2006, it took him three ODIs to reach his maiden ODI century and the fact that it came in front of his home crowd in Napier made him an instant hero and was immediately taken into consideration for being a future star.
Unfortunately for him and his country, Taylor never tasted success as his country’s No. 1 batsman. Following his first two tons in the 50-over format, he suffered a draught for nearly 30 matches to enter the triple digits again. Taylor has represented New Zealand in international cricket for more than a decade now but has failed to live up to the expectations of thousands of New Zealanders as he has managed only 4000-odd runs from 190 matches. Till date, he has only one memorable knock that blew apart the opposition; his 131 off 124 balls against Pakistan in the ICC Cricket World Cup 2011. He had smashed seven sixes and eight fours at an excellent strike-rate of 105.64.
With several ups and downs in his career and off the field, he has survived in the squad and is still considered to be important. And why not? After a humiliating end to his captaincy, Taylor returned and returned like never before. New Zealand’s current coach, Mike Hesson, was not very impressed with Taylor’s captaincy, that ended after two years in the worst possible way. Hesson went to Taylor’s hotel room, prior to the second Test against Sri Lanka in 2012, and made it clear to the New Zealander that he had lost confidence in him as a leader so he would be dismissed as a captain. However, Taylor could continue to lead in the ODIs and T20Is.
The captaincy fiasco works well for Taylor, the batsman
Taylor, who was hurt like anything, instead decided to take a break to spend time with his family and rejected the offer to continue as New Zealand’s limited-overs skipper. In the two-year tenure of Taylor’s captaincy, the man played 20 ODIs, scoring two centuries and six fifties at an average of 46.76.
Thankfully, for the BlackCaps, the relationship between Taylor and his successor Brendon McCullum was not affected by this fiasco. Taylor returned to the side and like never before. He went on to score his maiden Test double century which happened against West Indies in 2013.
He needed just two matches to record a century after he made a comeback to New Zealand team. He scored that against England in his native of Napier and by doing so he gave out the message loud and clear that he was back and would mind only his business, that was scoring runs. The Napier-born, before the captaincy controversy had six ODI hundreds with an ordinary average for a player of his potential.
However, his career took a new shape post the incident. He averaged 58.36 between the first match he played after his comeback and the last match under McCullum. That was inclusive of 2,218 runs in 52 ODIs and nine centuries. Talking specifically about matches where McCullum led New Zealand between 2013 and 2015, Taylor scored 1,736 runs at an average of nearly 48 which was inclusive of six centuries and nine ODI fifties.
Taylor has fared even better under McCullum’s successor Kane Williamson, who took over New Zealand’s full-time captaincy at the end of 2015. However, Williamson had led the BlackCaps in 2014 and 2015 in the absence of McCullum and Taylor’s numbers finer under the former. So far, Taylor has played under Williamson’s leadership in 26 ODIs and has scored four hundreds and four fifties.
Even better Taylor
With no pressure of captaincy in the last few years, Taylor has had the freedom to play freely and hence has done well and in turn that has helped his country. Post World Cup 2015, Taylor (58.78) has had the highest batting average among the other New Zealander batsmen. It is the only aspect in which he has been ahead of Williamson. Since the captain has played nine ODIs more than Taylor after New Zealand’s heartbreak final in Melbourne, Williamson tops the batting charts for New Zealand with 1,919 to Taylor’s 1,352 runs.
With the crucial India tour about to begin, Taylor has a huge task ahead of him. New Zealand will want their two dependable batsmen – Williamson and Taylor – to take charge of the runs board as much as they can. Williamson has played 10 ODIs in India and has scored 325 runs, which is inclusive of a century. Meanwhile, Taylor’s numbers don’t reflect best of his forms in India. He has his second lowest average, after South Africa (22.42) in India with an average of 28.53, having played 15 ODIs since 2010. Taylor, who has never scored an ODI century in India, scored a ton in the warm-up match against Board President XI and that will certainly give a push to his confidence but he must not take it for granted as it came against second-tier Indian team.
Taylor, whose struggles against spinners is not hidden at all now, will have to tackle the spin web of Yuzvendra Chahal, Kedar Jhadav and Kuldeep Yadav. For an experienced man like him, the youngsters in the team will look upto him for advices regarding the tough Indian conditions and for that Taylor himself will have to deliver in the first place.
The former captain’s recent numbers will certainly bolster his confidence. A year back, Taylor admitted to go nearly blind after he had a growth in his left eye. Not many players, after an eye surgery, can come back at their very best. Post the surgery, Taylor has featured in 14 ODIs and has managed two centuries and five fifties and an Indian tour where Taylor would be among the majority of the run getters for New Zealand will only like cherry on the cake for the veteran.