BLACKCAPS veteran Ross Taylor claimed the top honour on the final day of the 2020 New Zealand Cricket Awards, winning the prestigious Sir Richard Hadlee Medal for the third time.
The virtual ceremony also saw Canterbury umpire Kim Cotton’s meteoric rise through the officiating ranks recognised with the New Zealand Cricket Umpire of the Year award, while Tim Southee was judged the International Test Player of the Year.
For Taylor, it was a season of milestones as he helped guide the BLACKCAPS ODI side to a second successive ICC Cricket World Cup Final; surpassed Stephen Fleming’s all-time Test runs scoring record for New Zealand, and became the first cricketer to play 100 international games in each of the three formats.
The 36-year-old was once again the glue in the top-order, amassing 1,389 runs across the three formats in a season in which he played in all but one of the BLACKCAPS’ 32 internationals, from England to Sri Lanka, Australia and at home.
The virtual presentation via video link with Sir Richard Hadlee was full of meaning as New Zealand’s greatest player reflected on the journey taken by Taylor.
“I’ve followed your career since 2006 as I was part of the selection panel when you played your first ODI and then Test match,” Hadlee recalled.
“I’ve watched your progress over the past 14 years and I just want to congratulate you on all your performances and records to date.
“You’ve been a wonderful performer, you’ve got a fantastic record and on behalf of New Zealand Cricket I’d just like to say thanks very much for your contribution, not only to New Zealand cricket – but to world cricket.”
It’s the third time Taylor’s won the supreme award in its ten-year history and the reliable number four said it was an honour to have it presented by the man himself.
“Thanks Paddles, it’s been an amazing year,” he said.
“It’s been full of ups and downs. A World Cup Final - losing that Final. The Boxing Day Test, which was such a proud moment to be part of and to have so many Kiwis there supporting us was something I’ll never forget.
“I was happy with the consistency this season and any time you can contribute to the team performance and help get the team across the line is special.
Taylor chuckled when quizzed by Hadlee about his preferred format.
“My daughter asked me that this morning,” he said.
“I really enjoy playing T20 cricket. I feel one-day cricket is probably my best format, but Test cricket, and when you succeed at Test cricket, that’s the ultimate and most satisfying.
Taylor reflected on the influence of the late Martin Crowe who was instrumental in developing the right hander’s Test technique and helping him to set his goals.
“I’m sure he would be proud of this,” Taylor said.
“Marty was able to pass on a lot of his experience and wisdom which has played a massive part in my career.
“It was always something that he always pushed me to do (break records). I think he would probably be surprised at how well I have done.
“But I’ve been fortunate to be helped by a lot of people over the years and I guess when you win awards like this it’s nice to be able to thank them.”
NZC President Debbie Hockley had the honour of presenting Kim Cotton with the New Zealand Cricket Umpire of the Year award following a season which saw the practising lawyer become the first Kiwi woman to stand in an ICC World Cup Final.
“It’s been a busy journey, but I’ve absolutely loved it,” Cotton reflected.
“I was a bit surprised to be asked to do the Final - it was an amazing experience. The atmosphere and the noise was unreal. I thoroughly enjoyed the game and it was so great to be part of.”
Cotton, who has just finished her tenth season of umpiring said her passion for officiating was as strong as ever.
“I’ve been doing it for a while, but I still absolutely love it. There’s something new every season. There’s always something exciting happening in various games whether at club or international level.
“I thought I had a good season this year and I think a lot of it comes down to constantly umpiring cricket.
“Through the Super Smash period I would be lucky to go four days without umpiring on the field. It kept my routine going and my eyes and ears focused.”
Tim Southee’s sublime season with the red-ball in hand was underlined with his second award of the week, taking out the Test Player of the Year title to go with the Winsor Cup for First-Class bowling.
The 31-year-old claimed 40 wickets from eight Tests, including 14 in the two Test wins against India, in Wellington and Christchurch.
A measure of his influence is that, in the four Tests the BLACKCAPS won during the judging period, he took 25 wickets at a Hadlee-esque 16.4 average.
“To perform in the format is very pleasing and the stats are nice, but at the end of the day there’s a lot of work from your teammates that go into those numbers,” said Southee.
“The guys taking the catches, the guys bowling at the other end creating pressure - it’s a collective group effort and this award is a representation of that.”