Ross Taylor called time on his 15-year international career and in this period, he has been at the forefront of New Zealand’s resurgence in world cricket.
The slog-sweep! That was perhaps the one-shot that defined Ross Taylor’s batting. The mows to deep midwicket signaled more of power-hitting rather than sweet elegance. When he came onto the scene in 2006, New Zealand needed aggression. Taylor provided them that aggression in all formats of the game. The template of batting that Ross Taylor had adopted in that period was spectacular. Rewind to the Test ton against England in Old Trafford in 2008. On a pitch that was spicy enough to keep bowlers interested all day, Taylor decided that attack was the best mode of defense.
The template reached the zenith in 2011. In that one encounter against Pakistan, Taylor demonstrated that raw power could blow the opposition away. His 131 in Pallekele in that 2011 World Cup match saw him blast 28 and 30 runs off Shoaib Akhtar and Abdul Razzaq. That match was the last time Akhtar played international cricket. New Zealand had won against Pakistan for the first time in 28 years.
But, as high as the peak, the downfall was rapid. When New Zealand was bowled out for 45 in Newlands, it came on the back of some damaging news off the field. Taylor and coach Mike Hessen’s relationship was not good. The captaincy was taken away from Taylor. This is despite wins in Sri Lanka and Australia, two countries where New Zealand consistently struggled. The win in Australia was their first in 20 years. Against Sri Lanka, they broke another two-decade jinx. New Zealand was at the bottom in all three formats.
From the lows of Newlands, New Zealand and Ross Taylor had only one direction to go and that was up. Under Brendon McCullum, New Zealand decided to adopt the mantra of aggressive yet gentlemanly cricket. There were reconciliations. Taylor was now considered to be one of the pivots of the batting line-up. There was much more clarity on his role.
During the series against West Indies, the first since the Cape Town debacle, the new blueprint of New Zealand’s resurgence was unveiled with Taylor at the center. With the likes of Trent Boult and Neil Wagner coming up along with Kane Williamson and Corey Anderson, New Zealand had a formidable unit under McCullum. Taylor smashed three hundreds, including 217 against West Indies. New Zealand won the series 2-0 and it was the start of something special.
In each year that followed, Taylor’s consistency reached a peak. The glory came against Australia in which he smashed 290 in Perth, which remained the highest by an overseas player. In ODIs, Taylor averaged over 50 in seven out of the eight years. In his first five years of international ODIs, Taylor averaged 50 in a year only once. But, from 2013 to 2020, he was consistently in the high 50s. In that period, he hit 15 centuries, meaning an average of two per year.
Perhaps, the best way to sum up Ross Taylor’s glory would be that one moment in Southampton. When Mohammed Shami bowled a full ball on his pads, Taylor flicked it to the boundary to seal one of the greatest moments in New Zealand cricket history. New Zealand had become the first ICC World Test Champions. It was fitting that Taylor and Williamson, the two players who had combined experience of 200 Tests, were there at the end. Taylor was mentored by Martin Crowe. He never forgot the lessons of the New Zealand legend whom he wanted to emulate. All the lessons that Crowe had instilled had finally borne fruit. When Taylor had equaled Crowe’s tally of centuries, there was a video of him getting emotional that went viral. All those moments were fulfilled in Southampton.
Taylor was one of the few New Zealand players to play 100 Tests. Williamson was the modern great. Together, they guided New Zealand over the line, with Taylor fittingly putting in the finishing touch. The heartaches of 2015 and 2019, in which they lost the ODI World Cup final, had weighed a lot on Taylor and New Zealand. The 2019 final, in particular, which was lost on a technicality and bad umpiring, was a symbol of hurt.
But, in one stroke, New Zealand finally broke their ICC title jinx and Taylor played a major part. It needed the jolt of Newlands for New Zealand to reach the top. It needed a fallout with Hessen to make Taylor aware of his greater role. As he calls time on his career, Taylor has indeed made New Zealand cricket better. His absence from 2022 will leave a massive void that will not be easily filled.
|Most runs in Test cricket for New Zealand||7584|
|Most runs in ODI cricket for New Zealand||8581|
|Most combined international runs for New Zealand||18074|
|Only individual in history of cricket to play 100 matches in all three formats||110, 233,102|
|Most ODI hundreds for New Zealand||21|
|Highest score by an overseas player in history of Tests in Australia||290 (Perth 2015)|
|Fourth New Zealand player to play over 100 Tests||Daniel Vettori, Stephen Fleming, Brendon McCullum|
|Most catches in international cricket by New Zealand player||346|