James Taylor made his ODI debut against Ireland in 2011 © Getty Images (File Photo)
James Taylor made his ODI debut against Ireland in 2011 © Getty Images (File Photo)

The opportunity presented by the forced omission of Alastair Cook from the fourth One-Day International (ODI) against Sri lanka falls upon England’s new age cricketer, the likes of James Taylor. Ankur Dhawan dwells on this opportunity and underscores the merit in Taylor’s selection.

England aren’t the most consistent side in One-Day Internationals (ODIs). Which is why England’s victory over Sri Lanka has come as a whiff of fresh air for its fans. To boot, the feeling of serendipity, with struggling skipper Alastair Cook’s suspension for a game, seems nothing less than divine intervention.

It is incumbent on the likely beneficiary of his suspension; James Taylor, to not only stick his foot in the door but do everything in his power to make the spot in the line-up rightfully his own. He had made his ODI debut back in 2011 and then played a couple of Tests in 2012. His last ODI came in 2013 against Ireland. So far, he hasn’t been successful in the limited opportunities at the highest level.

Having said that, the only Test innings of note was crucial to England staying alive in the series going into Lords, as he had featured in a 147-run stand with Kevin Pietersen that in hindsight seemed to have done his career more harm than good. Sometimes to have genius flaying away the best bowling attack in the world from the other end, when you are trembling against the assault from the same group of bowlers, can’t be good for you. Although having done well to weather the storm, he was made to look ugly and inept by the brilliance of Pietersen.

While Taylor has been prolific in First-Class cricket, his numbers in List A cricket may surprise those who think ‘size matters.’ A short and diminutive man, he averages a staggering 53.16 in 101 matches with 12 hundreds to his credit. Four of those 12 List A hundreds have come in his last six outings for Nottinghamshire. What may make your hair curl is the number of balls he took to score one of those hundreds, he played an innings that would have made his harshest critic, Pietersen blush — he got it off 55 balls.

An unassuming sort of lad, Taylor is in the same mould as Romesh Kaluwitharana from Sri Lanka, of course, blessed with a little more skill. He is your quintessential ODI player with a dynamic repertoire of shots.  He is particularly strong through cover point off front and back foot, uses the sweep, conventional and reverse, to great effect and among typically inelastic teammates he should be considered a class of his own. Worth emulating is his quick footwork against spinners, whether he goes dancing down the wicket and lofts them, covering an area from cover to deep-midwicket, or when he rocks back to cut them, even  late-cut them from behind him, sometimes plucking the ball from the keeper’s gloves as an audacious after thought. The virtuosity the little man from Nottingham possesses is vaguely reminiscent of Mahela Jayawardene or even Sachin Tendulkar.

Perhaps the most accurate comparison can be made with Australia’s Steven Smith who was ridiculed for his queer mannerisms at the crease but has evolved into a middle order mainstay for Australia in both forms of the game. Taylor bats in much the same busy manner as Smith. He doesn’t smash the cover of the ball, shows no discernible intent to bludgeon the bowling, but rather creeps up on you like a Kudzu vine. Before you know it he is batting on 45 from 50-odd balls. He goes about his job gently, artistically and unassumingly.

For donkey years, England have groped in the dark scouring for players who fit the bill in both Test and limited overs cricket. A few who come to mind are Pietersen himself, Ian Bell,  and if we turn the clock back, perhaps Marcus Trescothick. Taylor fulfills all criteria that make a batsman tick in the post-modern era. In the absence of Cook, England may find themselves stumbling upon a real gem, who is at the peak of his power as a batsman. He is the need of the hour for this new English team that is beginning to to take shape, he will be a vital cog in the wheel to complete their metamorphosis.

(Ankur Dhawan is a reporter with CricketCountry. Heavily influenced by dystopian novels, he naturally has about 59 conspiracy theories for every moment in the game of cricket. On finding a direct link between his head and the tip of his fingers, he also writes about it)