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By Bharath Ramaraj
Historically, the rugby-mad New Zealand has struggled to produce world-class batsmen. The likes of John Reid, Martin Donnelly, Charles Dempster, Glenn Turner, Andrew Jones and more so, Martin Crowe shone brightly from time to time. But each time, they have produced a truly world class batsman, it has been more like an oasis in desert. In recent times too, it has been the same old story with a couple of batsmen holding forte against opposition attacks licking their lips in anticipation of bowling to New Zealand batsmen.
However in Ross Taylor, they have one batsman who has raised the bar for current set of New Zealand cricketers to follow in his footsteps. He was in glorious touch against the West Indies and now to his credit, has the third highest average in the history of New Zealand. He essayed centuries in three consecutive Tests against the West Indies. The bowlers on the other side of the fence must have scratched their heads in disbelief. Here is one cricketer whose graph is showing a continuous upward sporting curve.
Taylor had his fair share of problems when Mike Hesson, the present New Zealand coach who unceremoniously sacked him as the captain of the side. But Taylor bounced back with that extra zeal and vigour — a sign of a fine sportsman who never gives up. He isn’t your quintessential batsman with the MCC coaching manual textbook technique. But just like any other prolific batsman, he keeps his head still and watches the ball all the way through. So, he continues to surprise his detractors by essaying strokes over the mid wicket region.
Other than him, the present captain, Brendon McCullum has that ability to dash and bash his way to success. When you play with gambling instincts, you’re bound to gift your wicket away a few times. But McCullum, especially in the shorter versions of the game, has taken New Zealand to what seemed like improbable wins. Even in Test cricket, he has come to their rescue during times of crisis. It certainly happened in the series against England played at home last year when he proved to be thorn in the opposition’s flesh.
Kane Williamson was earmarked for success even during his Under-19 days. He is one of those few modern day batsmen who is strong on the back-foot and can wow the purists with his punches. But he has struggled for consistency. Williamson has that habit of getting to 20s and 30s and losing the plot. Martin Guptill can play eye-catching strokes and last year was in exceptional touch in the ODI format. His knock of 189 against England at Southampton turned out to be the highest individual score by a New Zealand batsman in ODIs.
BJ Watling bats with poise and calm head on his shoulders, but has found it rather tough to break into the New Zealand ODI and T20 squads. Hamish Rutherford, started his Test career with a bang by compiling a century o his debut. Dean Brownlie, when everyone was falling around him like nine pins, played like a pillar of strength by amassing a hundred at Cape Town against South Africa. But since then has fallen away. Corey Anderson himself can turn into a fine all-rounder in the years to come. But it has to be said that even in the past, there have been batsmen who have shown promise, but in the end, it has turned into a false dawn of hope.
As New Zealand take on a young and energetic Indian side brimming with confidence, they need not only Taylor to fire on all cylinders, but others too have to stand up and come to the party.
(Bharath Ramaraj, an MBA in marketing, eats, drinks and sleeps cricket. He has played at school and college-level, and now channelises his passion for the game by writing about it)
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