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Ross Taylor - Holding the flag of Aotearoa high for over 16 years

Last updated on 04 Apr 2022 | 05:04 PM
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Ross Taylor - Holding the flag of Aotearoa high for over 16 years

For a player, who was called reckless and irresponsible at the start of his career, it was a step-by-step evolution, punctuated at its own pace

Just like that, another significant chapter in world cricket has come to an end. 

The retirement of any cricketer, whose name has become synonymous with the progression of a team’s rise on the circuit, automatically becomes something more than just a dusk. With Ross Taylor, there was anticipation, there was calmness and more importantly, there was a sense of security. His strong penchant for runs is backed by statistics and that has made him the highest ODI run-scorer for New Zealand - a true giant in every sense imaginable. 

In the world of instant gratification, Taylor posed a picture of calm, of process over beauty, of substance over natural talent. He looked ugly on slog but ended up making that as one effective weapon of wizardry which landed him many laurels. Simply said, he was the original in the world of copy-paste and that too being bloody comfortable in his own skin. 

But has it always been like that? For a player, who was called reckless and irresponsible at the start of his career, it was a step-by-step evolution, punctuated at its own pace. 

In ODI cricket, he was a true megastar. 8,607 runs at an average of 47.55. 51 fifties to go with 21 hundreds. In the history of New Zealand’s ODI cricket, hardly has any player ever cut a swathe as much as him, and with a level of ferocity unbeknownst to the fans of the small nation across the Tasman River. Stephen Fleming was everything brilliant about ODI batting, but he still averaged a paltry 32.42 - a drastic 15 runs less per dismissal than Taylor. The legacy passed on a hard willow was truly the arrival of a generational toiler - tailor-made for all conditions to keep the flag of Aotearoa high for over 16 years. 

He was not flamboyant like Brendon McCullum nor commanded universal adulation as Fleming did. But such has been the level of consistency Taylor possessed in ODI cricket that his average in a year never dropped below 44 between 2011 to 2022 barring 2016 in which he played only 7 games. Between 2015 and his retirement today, Taylor averaged over 60 runs per dismissal in ODI innings, being a significant rock in the plan for New Zealand to reach two World Cup finals in the same period. While Kane Williamson has walked away with the accolades as the most important cog in the wheel, Ross Taylor framed himself as the silent assassin to push the team to greater heights.

Post the 2015 World Cup, Taylor achieved astronomical heights as a batter. In the aftermath of New Zealand losing to Australia in the final, Taylor made a conscious change in his approach and alongside Williamson and coach Mike Hesson, with whom he had a history, Taylor forged a solid working relationship to ensure his batting hit another level. Between 2015 to 2019, only Virat Kohli had a better average than Taylor. And that tells a story of its own. 

But if the penchant made him one of the top batters across formats in world cricket, his nonchalance has also ensured that New Zealand always had him knocking over even in the shortest format of the game. It was no secret that Taylor’s T20 game dwindled big-time in the last few years, a shadow of his former self that once took the IPL auction by storm, but he remained a valuable entity till pre-pandemic time to allow the Kiwis to transition into a better time. 

Thus it seemed like his retirement came in phases. It was passing on the baton from building to establishing, from guiding New Zealand from one of the worst sides in world cricket to a World Test Champion and finalists in the last two 50-Over World Cups. That was the very idea on which Taylor would be remembered - a cricketer who never stopped brimming and pushing New Zealand Cricket to greater heights.

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