“Taylor had started from the scraps, worked harder to improve and elevate his game to the next level. He would blaze under the shadow of Williamson, but his achievements could neither be overshadowed nor undermined because Taylor is undoubtedly one of the modern-day greats”
Heroes come from unlikely sources at times. At the start, they remain unknown to many, ignored, criticized and left in the cold; but in the end, such heroes prove their worth and stamp their authority in the hearts and minds of the people.
One might call them the unsung heroes and put them in the category of the underrated ones.
Still, their impact factor speaks loud and clear to their support so much that it is hard to ignore them from the category of the modern-day greats.
Ross Taylor is one of the modern-day greats by all means.
Today I’m announcing my retirement from international cricket at the conclusion of the home summer, two more tests against Bangladesh, and six odi’s against Australia & the Netherlands. Thank you for 17 years of incredible support. It’s been an honour to represent my country #234 pic.twitter.com/OTy1rsxkYp
— Ross Taylor (@RossLTaylor) December 29, 2021
At Johannesburg, back in 2007, South Africa simply mauled New Zealand courtesy of a fast bowler named Dale Steyn, who was at the height of his powers. The New Zealand batting order had the experience of Stephen Flemming and Scott Styris, while the rest of the batters failed to cut a satisfactory figure.
New Zealand presented the Test cap to a batsman from Samoan descent since Murphy Su’a – Ross Taylor.
Taylor watched how South Africa devastated the Kiwis and realized how badly he needs to improve his game – the young lad just managed to fetch 15 and 4 runs from both innings.
Before this, he made his international debut against the West Indies and in the same year, Taylor scored his maiden one day century in front of a delighted crowd in Napier, playing against Sri Lanka. The innings included 12 fours and 6 sixes. He hit 84 against Australia in their opening game in the Common Wealth Bank Series in 2006-07.
Taylor scored his second century in his ODI career in 2007 against Australia.
Cant say that I knew Ross Taylor to any great extent. But the few times I spent in his presence conversing with him, I came away thinking, ‘what a lovely and decent person he is’. Finish strong Rosco???.
— Ian Raphael Bishop (@irbishi) December 30, 2021
He scored 117, the 2nd highest score by a New Zealander against Australia at that time, and later on, he was included in the Cricket World Cup squad where New Zealand were one of the favourites. It was not a memorable tournament for Taloy because he could manage only 107 runs from six matches whereas, New Zealand crashed out of the event after losing to Sri Lanka in the semifinals.
He could strike the ball cleanly with perfect timing and was very strong on the onside.
But, Test cricket was a different ball game that required more.
After 2007, players like Flemming, Styris and Craig McMillan left the scene and New Zealand were going through a transition period – they required the young guns to step up and take the responsibility.
Taylor had the swagger and shots under his belt, but he just did not know how to flourish in white clothes.
Leanne McGoldrick, the manager back then, convinced Martin Crowe, who dismissed Taylor as a dirty slogger, to help Taylor.
Ross Taylor has the unusual distinction of playing in one of the weakest @BLACKCAPS test teams of the modern era – and the strongest.
1st half: played 54, won 10, lost 27
2nd half*: played 65, won 35, lost 18
*from 13/14 home summer onwards.
— Michael Appleton (@michelappleton) December 30, 2021
“I had just played for New Zealand and Martin was around as a commentator. My manager had a good relationship with him, and she said, ‘Martin’s always willing to help. Why don’t you give him a call?’ So I called him, and at that time I’d just made my ODI debut and hadn’t played Test cricket. Tests were something I wanted to get good at,” Taylor said in an interview with Andrew Fidel Fernando.
“I flew up to Auckland and stayed with Martin. We both loved red wine. We talked 50% about cricket and 50% about wine. That was a good starting point. The relationship grew from there. When you have a batting coach in the team, they have to look at 15 other players. It was nice to have Martin give you his honest appraisal and not have any emotional bias. He’d look at me from a mental and technical point of view. That was invaluable to my career. I just wanted to play Test cricket back then. Here I am, having played 90-odd Test matches. I’ve been helped out by a lot of people, but definitely, Martin had a big influence.”
Go well, Ross. This will be my abiding memory of you.
When Ross Taylor could not express himself on reaching the same no. of Test 100s as his friend, philosopher, guide, Martin Crowepic.twitter.com/w74TB0qSYR
— El Chopernos (@El_Chopernos) December 30, 2021
“The ball was going all over the place at Eden Park Outer Oval [first class match]. I saw him walking into the ground and around the boundary as I was batting and I thought, ‘Geez, there’s Martin Crowe.’ Tama Canning and Kyle Mills were making me look silly. At that stage, I didn’t really trust my defence. My best form of defence was attack… probably not what was required on the first morning of a first-class game,” Taylor in an interview with Dylan Cleaver.
“I was waiting [after being dismissed for 10 off 14 balls] to hear back from Leanne, but I don’t think she had the heart to tell me. Eventually, I found out Martin had told her I was nothing but a dirty slogger.”
Crowe, nicknamed Hogan, would come around and forge a wonderful friendship with Taylor with the intention to help him grow.
“Talking to Hogan over time, things he said to me when I was 24 didn’t resonate with the same effect as they did as I matured and my game matured. They certainly resonated further down the track.”
Ross Taylor was told before the 2012 SL Tests, in private, that he would be axed as captain after the tour. In the 2nd Test, his 216 runs gave NZ a 1st win in Asia against a side other than Ban since ‘98. Martin Crowe rated it as the equal-greatest Test performance in NZ history
— Ben Gardner (@Ben_Wisden) December 30, 2021
Taylor, being an attacking batter, more often, undermined his defensive abilities, which is very important to survive in Test cricket.
Crowe helped Taylor tighten up his defence.
“When there’s a rained-out game and an old game will come on the telly, I’ll watch myself, thinking, ‘Oh geez, how did I bat like that?’ You always tinker with your game anyway, but when you’re younger and going through a lean patch, you tend to try to find quick fixes. Now I have learned to trust my game more.”
On the impact of Crowe, Taylor explained on the innings of 290 against Australia at Perth:
“I’d just recovered from the operation after an incident in Zimbabwe where I got hit on the box in the nets… actually it missed the box completely. To go over to Australia following that was tricky. I was underdone. I got a duck in the first innings at the Gabba and came out swinging in the second with no success. I was really out of sorts, but it shows how you can change yourself so quickly.”
“I got a nice email from Martin before the Test. If I ever write a book, it will have the email he wrote in full. It was a nice little reminder of where I was and where he was in his life at that point. He wrote the email from hospice. That put things in perspective.”
His technique could resemble a child playing in the gardens during leisure time, but that was what Taylor adapted well – his bat might not have come down straight in the earlier part of his career, though later on things started to change – less straight at the crease, but his backlift became straighter with the trigger movement being the initial forward press. At times, his footwork was questioned, and he worked on that as well to counter the spinners – even with limited footwork he was found competent and shifting of weight on the back foot improved his back foot play – the executions on the offside gradually improved.
Then came the temperament to bloom in Test cricket.
How Ross Taylor’s Test & ODI averages compare to those of middle order batters across the span of his international ? career:
All 3-5 batters: 40.60
All 3-5 batters*: 37.60
*Only from 10 sides that had test status through Taylor’s career
— Michael Appleton (@michelappleton) December 30, 2021
The perfect example was his classic 154 against England at Manchester in 2008, where the world witnessed an improved Taylor and what to come in the next decade and so on.
Taylor had laid all the insecurities to rest and set about proving that he’s more than just a limited-overs player.
His mighty hitting was there to see when the delivery merited the shot, but for the most part, he played straight and late and made crease occupation his primary concern.
It was an eye-opening performance from a man who’d been under-estimated after failing in his first two Tests.
Ross Taylor will retire as a world champion ?
It has been some innings from the New Zealand legend ? pic.twitter.com/NbsbxdeIG2
— Sport360° (@Sport360) December 30, 2021
Taylor said to Dylan, “The reason I hold [the Manchester innings] in such high regard was becaue, the conditions were tough and I was all over the place leading into that game. I got 19 and 20 at Lord’s, and the way Hogan always talked about Lord’s, it was the pinnacle for him. Whether that rubbed off on me and I put extra pressure on myself, I’m not sure, but I was all over the place and in a really bad headspace. To turn that around, to score 150, will go down as one of my best knocks.”
“To be consistent, the first thing you need to do is to survive your first 20 to 30 balls. To do that you need to trust your defence. More often than not, if you get through those first 30 balls, batting becomes easier regardless of whether it’s a flat wicket, spinning wicket or if it is seaming around. Some days that might happen earlier, other days it stretches out to 40 balls.”
“The more you play the more accustomed you get to different conditions and environments… [but] no day is the same. You can be in good nick and have a bad night’s sleep and suddenly you’re struggling. You can be in good form and wait six hours to bat and by the time you get to bat, you’re spent. You can be out of nick, squirt a couple through the gully for four, and all of a sudden something clicks.”
That knock gave Taylor a lifter – sadly, New Zealand cricket was going through a tough period.
The defeats were more in numbers than the victories – Taylor’s bat was not on song as well, but he always tried to be steady.
Ross Taylor calls time
Men’s international cricket, first to ..
100 Tests: Colin Cowdrey
100 ODIs: Allan Border
100 T20Is: Shoaib Malik
100 Tests & ODIs: Sunil Gavaskar
100 Tests & T20Is: ROSS TAYLOR
100 ODIs & T20Is: Shoaib Malik
100 Tests, ODIs & T20Is: ROSS TAYLOR@BLACKCAPS
— Swamp (@sirswampthing) December 30, 2021
In 2012, he was made the skipper of the Test side and that elevated his game.
He averaged 54.60 with the bat that year and scored 142 runs that helped New Zealand win a Test in Colombo and ultimately, they came out as the series winners.
“I think at one point we lost ten or 11 ODIs in a row. And we also lost 4-0 in a series in Bangladesh. We were getting ourselves into good positions but we weren’t able to capitalize on them. It seems like a long time ago, those games. But sometimes you’ve got to hit rock bottom to get to the top,” said Taylor to Fernando.
But, after that series win, Brendon McCullum had been appointed New Zealand’s captain in all three formats after Ross Taylor declined an offer to stay on as leader of the Test side in a split-captaincy scenario.
Still, he put all the differences aside and shone with the bat in 2013 averaging 72.17!
“I think it showed you what you can do with a bit of resilience. I went two weeks without sleep. I was having probably two hours of sleep each night. But I was still able to score a 140-odd and back it up with a 70. It’s amazing how resilient I felt I was back then. Things happen in life that are out of your control. It is what it is.”
Runs continued to flow from his bat in Test and limited-overs formats.
Day by day, Traylor had become the lynchpin for the New Zealand batting order alongside the great Kane Williamson and in the mid and later stages of the last decade, Taylor would witness the rise of Black Caps in Test cricket.
A modern-day great
ICYMI, Ross Taylor has announced he will retire after New Zealand’s 2022 home season ? pic.twitter.com/9m3dw0tKp6
— ESPNcricinfo (@ESPNcricinfo) December 30, 2021
When Taylor clubbed a four through the leg side to win the World Test Championship final against India in the final, he ended 21 years of heartache for the Kiwis. It was the first time New Zealand were winning a major ICC title since the 2000 ICC Knockout Trophy when Stephen Fleming had led them to their only world title.
After the historic win against India, Taylor would experience a Test series win in England since 1999.
There have been 432 Tests played in Australia and Ross Taylor has the highest Test score in Australia by a visiting player. He scored 290 at Perth in 2015. He has scored the most number of hundreds in Tests and ODIs for the Kiwis. He has so far taken 346 catches in international cricket, which is the most grabbed by a Kiwi in international cricket.
Taylor has played 100 Tests for Black Caps. He is one of only four New Zealanders to play 100 Tests. Others are Daniel Vettori (112), Stephen Fleming (111), and Brendon McCullum (101). He has played 100 matches minimum in each of the three formats and is the first player from any country to achieve this milestone.
Taylor has scored 7584 runs in Test cricket till now, which is the most by any New Zealand batter in this format.
Taylor had started from the scraps, worked harder to improve and elevate his game to the next level. He would blaze under the shadow of Williamson, but his achievements could neither be overshadowed nor undermined because Taylor is undoubtedly one of the modern-day greats.