The glorious days of New Zealand cricket are a thing of the past. It was way back in the 1980s when the likes of Martin Crowe and Richard Hadlee were big names in world cricket and earned their country much respect on the field of play.
The likes of Stephen Fleming and jack of all trades Daniel Vettori have been leaders in the true sense of the word, but they lacked quality support from team mates on a consistent basis. Ross Taylor has imbibed a lot of qualities from Vettori since taking over from him in all formats of the game in June, 2011. In the 13 Tests that he captained, the Kiwis registered unexpected victories in Australia and Sri Lanka.
Taylor was born in Lower Hutt, Wellington, and went on to become the second male cricketer of Samoan descent — after Murphy Su’a — to represent New Zealand at the highest level. In his fourth season in 2005-06 for Central Districts, Taylor notched up three centuries to attract the attention of the national selectors. Just months later, he was in Napier, playing alongside the likes of Stephen Fleming, Nathan Astle and Scott Styris.
Taylor’s first act of brilliance came in only his third One-Day International (ODI) against Sri Lanka at Napier in 2006. Taylor walked in at No 3 and put on a 151-run stand with the experienced Nathan Astle for the third wicket. Taylor scored 128 off 133 deliveries, an innings that was laced with 12 fours and four sixes.
The best of Ross Taylor
Taylor is known for his aggressive intent and ability to carry the team alone on his shoulders — both of which he showed in two recent matches. A couple of years ago on this day, he celebrated his 27th birthday with a freakish knock in the 2011 World Cup. Taylor smashed 131 off just 124 deliveries, with the last 55 runs coming from just 13 deliveries. He sent spectators at the Pallekele International Stadium into delirium as the Kiwis amassed 127 runs in the last nine overs.
Taylor then played one of the most memorable knocks of 2012. At a time when the Kiwi batsmen were having nightmares of Sri Lankan spinner Rangana Herath running through the batting line-up, Taylor stood tall and played a gritty innings to setup a phenomenal Test victory for his team in Sri Lanka.
After his team succumbed to a 10-wicket defeat to Sri Lanka in the first Test, Taylor led from the front in the second Test and scored 142 to help post a good total in the first innings. His partnership of 262 with youngster Kane Williamson for the third wicket was one of the best in hostile conditions. He followed up his century with an important contribution of 74 to set a target of 362 for the home side which they failed to overcome.
The controversy with New Zealand Cricket
Despite a few match-turning knocks, New Zealand was going through a tough phase with humiliation in Australia and annihilation in India. With results not going their way, New Zealand Cricket (NZC) chief Mike Hesson allegedly asked him to step down from captaincy in the limited-overs format and went on record saying there is need for change in captain in all forms of the game. The miscommunication eventually led Taylor to give up captaincy and opt out of the South African tour. A lot of ex-Kiwi cricketers slammed the board for the way they handled Taylor and the captaincy issue. The pressure was mounting on the board and they issued a public apology to Taylor for the way his captaincy issue was handled. He accepted the apology and returned to the fray in the home series against England.
Taylor, who turned 29 today, still has a lot of cricket left in him. Having moved on after the captaincy saga, Taylor, along with current skipper Brendon McCullum, will be expected to shoulder the responsibility of doing well in all formats of the game. Taylor may not end up as one of New Zealand’s greats, but his impact on the current side that has a lot of youngsters can go a long way to help New Zealand cricket grow.
(Prakash Govindasreenivasan is an Editorial consultant at CricketCountry and a sports fanatic, with a soft corner for cricket. After studying journalism for two years, came the first big high in his professional life - the opportunity to interview his hero Adam Gilchrist and talking about his magnificent 149 in the 2007 World Cup final. While not following cricket, he is busy rooting for Chelsea FC)
First Published: March 8, 2013, 11:58 am