Ross Taylor, An Underrated Cricketer Who Was A Giant Among New Zealand’s Greatest Generation
Today I want to reflect upon the career of one of my all-time favorite players, Ross Taylor. We will discuss it all—the achievements, the struggles, my favorite memories, and ultimately what we can learn from him.
But you ask, why am I talking about Ross Taylor all of a sudden?
Well for once, he has been in the news recently.
- Last month, he suffered from a calf strain, which cast a slight doubt on his place for the Test series against England and the much awaited World Test Championship final.
- In the last year, Taylor has already been dropped from the T20I side for the likes of Devon Conway & Glenn Phillips.
- BJ Watling, one of the main cogs of the Test lineup, announced that he has decided to hang up his boots after the upcoming tour of England.
Ross Taylor still has a few years of international cricket left in him, but these events just highlight that the ending is closer rather than later.
It is the beginning of the end for the greatest Kiwi generation.
Also Read: Who Are the Most Underrated Cricketers?Embed from Getty Images
New Zealand Cricket’s Greatest Generation
New Zealand cricket is now a powerhouse. Across the three formats, their record is spectacular:
- Semi-finalists: 2007 & 2011 ODI World Cup; 2007 & 2016 T20 World Cups
- Runners-Up: 2009 Champions Trophy; 2015 & 2019 ODI World Cup finals
- Finalists: Inaugural World Test Championship Final
This is surely New Zealand’s greatest cricketing generation, and great teams are built upon the contributions of exceptional individuals.
Post the Martin Crowe era, New Zealand’s performances were inconsistent until the Stephen Fleming generation. With a side consisting of Fleming, Daniel Vettori, Nathan Astle, Craig McMillan, Jacob Oram, Scott Styris, and the feisty Brendon McCullum, the Black Caps began to generate consistent performances.
Fast forward fifteen years, New Zealand have transformed from a team that ‘perennially punches-above-their-weight’ to serious ‘contenders.’
The Brendon McCullum-Kane Williamson generation has unearthed heroes like ODI double centurion Martin Guptill, superman Grant Elliot, American-bound Corey Anderson, steadiness of Tom Latham & Henry Nicholls, the all-round power of Colin de Grandhomme, Jimmy Neesham, Kyle Jamieson, & the Mitchells (Daryll and Santner), spin-guile of Ish Sodhi, and the depth with incoming youngsters like Conway-Phillips-Will Young-Tim Seifert-Tom Blundell.
From the land of dibbly-dobblies to the genuine pace regime consisting of Southee-Boult-Henry-Jamieson-Wagner-Ferguson-Milne, the transformation is complete.
One man was a constant that connected the Fleming and Williamson generations. From the promising youngster in 2006 to the calm senior in 2021, across 4 ODI World Cups, he has seen it all. The name is Luteru Ross Poutoa Lote Taylor, the second cricketer of Samoan descent to play for New Zealand.Embed from Getty Images
The Stats – The Best #4 ODI Batsman of All-Time
When things are all said and done, Taylor will go down as the best #4 ODI batsman of all time.
To put this in perspective, at #4, Taylor has the (1) most runs, (2) most centuries, (3) most 50+ scores, (4) second highest individual score after Vivian Richards’ 189*, and (5) second highest average after AB De Villiers of course (with at least 100 ODIs).
His international career as a whole is not that bad either.
Taylor’s career can be broken down into three phases—(1) swashbuckling slog-sweeper, (2) responsible middle order batsman, (3) and absolute world dominator.
His averages between 2017-2020: 60.50, 91.28, 55.47, 99.00. 6 hundreds, 19 fifties. Brilliant.
Ross Taylor Records In a Nutshell
- 1st cricketer to play 100+ matches in each international format.
- 3rd most catches combined (340) behind only Mahela Jayawardene & Ricky Ponting
- Most capped player (440) for New Zealand across formats
- Highest run scorer, most hundreds, and most fifties for New Zealand in ODIs
- Highest run scorer in Tests, second most hundreds after Kane Williamson
- 3 double centuries in Tests
- 3 consecutive ODI centuries – 112* Vs India, 102 Vs India, 105* Vs Pakistan (2014)
- 6 consecutive ODI fifties – 181*, 80, 86*, 54, 90, 137 (2018-19) Vs England, Pakistan, Sri Lanka
- 5 ODI centuries Vs England
New Zealand Cricket Awards
- Sir Richard Hadlee Award: 2012-2013, 2013-2014, 2019-2020
- ODI Player of the Year: 2010-11, 2013-14, 2017-18, 2018-19
- Test Player of the Year: 2012-13, 2013-14
- T20I Player of the Year: 2019-2020
He burst onto the scene in 2006, scoring an unbeaten 128 against Sri Lanka in only his 3rd ODI. He debuted in Test cricket a year later and found success in 2008 against his favorite opponent, England. Taylor would score 120 in Hamilton against them and 154* at Manchester later in the year.
My First Memory
My first memory of Ross Taylor was in that magnificent 2006-07 series vs Australia, one of the best ODI series of that era. The Kiwis whitewashed Australia 3-0 scoring 340 & 350 respectively in successful chases. These were the days where chasing 270 was considered a difficult task.
Taylor was the architect of the 2nd ODI, scoring 117 to go along with a brilliant diving catch at Eden Park.
Early IPL Career
Next came IPL 2009. I was already a fan of the 2009 RCB team – stalwarts Rahul Dravid & Anil Kumble, Robin Uthappa, and youngsters Manish Pandey & Virat Kohli. Finisher Ross Taylor just took RCB to the next level, one of their key players taking Royal Challengers Bangalore to their first final.
His best IPL innings was the 81*(33) Royal Challengers Bangalore Vs Kolkata Knight Riders. Coincidentally, Taylor’s 81* overpowered countrymen Brendon McCullum’s 84*.
At the halfway stage, the required rate hovered around 11. What came next was pure genius. With 52 needed off 24, Taylor unleashed five slog-sweeping sixes against the likes of fast bowlers Ishant Sharma and Ajit Agarkar. RCB won by 4 balls to spare. He would play a couple of more cameos in 2009, including a player of the match performance in the Champions League.
In the next few seasons, Taylor would play steady knocks for Rajasthan Royals and Delhi Daredevils, but his T20 form never reached the heights of that 2009 season again.Embed from Getty Images
Birthday Special – 2011 Cricket World Cup
One of Taylor’s sweetest moments came on his 27th birthday in the 2011 Cricket World Cup at Pallekele, when Kamran Akmal’s dropped catches and an array of full tosses literally gifted him a memorable birthday present.
He would make the most of this opportunity. After slowly rebuilding to 69* (108), what followed was carnage. He ended up scoring 131* (124) with 7 sixes. Carving away off-side yorkers, slogging leg-sided deliveries into the stand, and thrashing Shoaib Akhtar, Abdul Razzaq, and Shahid Afridi, this was Taylor at his best. In the last six overs, NZ scored 114 and gave Pakistan their only loss of the group stage.
Apart from that mild altercation with the South African team in the quarterfinals, it was a pretty decent tournament for the Kiwis.
A Double Century To Remember
Taylor was going through a lean patch in 2014-2015. Although he had a few 30s and 40s, questions were being asked on his place in the Test squad. On a flat track in Perth (when does that ever happen?), Taylor made the most of his opportunities, scoring a brilliant 290 & 36* with a 265-run partnership with Kane Williamson. That would be the end of Mitchell Johnson’s career.
Ross Taylor saved his best (thus far) against England at Dunedin in 2018. Chasing 336, New Zealand were reduced to 2-2 in 3 overs. Then he mastered a chase….on one leg.
When Taylor was 107, he ran for a two and dove to reach the crease in time. In the process, he injured himself. New Zealand still needed 116 from 13 overs. Since he could not run twos, for the last ten overs it was all stand-and-deliver stuff. The fact that he stayed in and remained unbeaten just blows my mind.
With healthy support from Williamson, de Grandhomme, and Henry Nicholls as well as a 187-run partnership with Tom Latham, NZ’s third highest successful run chase (after that 2006-07 Australia series) was complete. Following tradition, it was a day before his 34th birthday.
Here are some of the commentary clips from Taylor’s innings. Just dominated all across the park.
“Pull over long leg… Swung over long on… Flicked… Slaps it to point boundary…Swats it powerfully…Beats deep square… Carts it over deep mid-wicket… Over backward point… Beats third man… Conventional sweep… Through extra cover! Out of the ground.“
Definitely a candidate for the best ODI innings in a chase of all-time. Epic.
My favorite Taylor innings by far.
India Vs New Zealand 2019
One criticism of this New Zealand generation is not being able to lift the elusive trophy after seven ICC knockouts opportunities in the last 15 years.
Taylor himself had not played a match defining innings in a high-profile game apart from a few steady 40s here and there (I believed in the 2015 World Cup Final when Elliot-Taylor had ‘rescued’ NZ to 150 in 35 overs. In came James Faulkner for the final powerplay, dismissed Taylor off the first ball, and took the game away. Dreams crushed.)
In the 2019 Cricket World Cup semi-final, he finally came to the party. 74 (90) might not seem too much, but in the context of a slow pitch & disciplined bowling attacks, this was a precious little innings, keeping NZ’s middle order together.
Unfortunate that his innings ended with a direct hit from Ravindra Jadeja, but by then, NZ had pushed to a competitive total.
A Word On the Williamson-Taylor Partnership
Speaking of run-outs, Kane Williamson & Ross Taylor. The best number #3-4 pair of the decade, but not so good between the wickets.
With the exception of McCullum-Guptill, New Zealand have often rotated through their openers resulting in frequent top-order collapses and slow starts. This brings in Taylor and Williamson in the game to do what they do best—read the situation, soak in the pressure, nudge it for singles and doubles, dab down to third man, flick it off the hip.
Next thing you know, the innings is halfway done, wickets are in hand, and the acceleration has begun. Standard Williamson-Taylor template.
The thing is they seem to do it over and over….and over…again. Astonishing consistency.
The StrugglesEmbed from Getty Images
At the peak of his batting form, Ross Taylor was handed captaincy after an interview process, narrowly edging out Brendon McCullum. His two year tenure ended unceremoniously. Post a disastrous 2012 T20 World Cup and a tour of Sri Lanka, Taylor was sacked unceremoniously as captain from all three formats, without proper communication, especially from coach Mike Hesson. Putting this aside, he fought through and scored 142 & 74 against Sri Lanka.
He took a break from the game and skipped the subsequent tour of South Africa. New Zealand folded for 45 against Steyn-Philander-Morne Morkel and lost the first test by an innings and 27 runs. This match would be the catalyst for McCullum to compete in an ultra aggressive approach that catapulted them to the 2015 World Cup final. Taylor was selected back into the side as the trio put their differences aside.
However, as McCullum writes in his book Declared, the incident “gouged a rift between us that will probably never heal.” Taylor himself states that the top job probably “came a couple of years before I was ready.”
The 290 at the WACA is special, but you know what is more special? Scoring that many runs against the pace of Josh Hazlewood & the Mitchells—Johnson, Starc, Marsh without a functioning eye.
He had to have a surgery in 2016 to remove the pterygium in his eye. This probably gave him that extra bit of timing that sparked the second wind in his career and elongated his career.
Apart from being a Black Cap legend and a critical thinker of the game, Martin Crowe was a mentor to the current crop of players in the New Zealand side, especially Martin Guptill and Ross Taylor. Crowe lost a tough battle with cancer in 2016, which impacted them both tremendously. After Taylor went past Crowe’s all-time Test record and closed in on his 100th test, Taylor could not hold his tears back in a press conference.
In his own words, Crowe was “New Zealand’s best ever Test batsman, best ever cricketing brain, a genius, and someone that inspired thousands of Kiwis and thousands of people overseas as well.”
End of his T20 career?
Ross Taylor was dropped from the T20I squad last year due to scintillating performances from Devon Conway and Glenn Phillips. He needs to re-invent his T20 game if he has any chance of resurrecting his T20I career. Since the upcoming T20 World Cup allows a squad of 23, I think he might just find a place.
What We Can Learn From Ross Taylor & the New Zealand team?
New Zealand Cricket Team: Camaraderie & Team Spirit Galore
Why are the Kiwis everybody’s second favorite team? Is it just because of the 2019 World Cup Final and the obsession with captain Kane Williamson’s smile? Umm…maybe.
Or is it because of the talent among the group? Possibly. Maybe it is due to the aggressive approach installed by McCullum’s captaincy? Maybe, maybe not.
Above all, I believe it is the due to the camaraderie between the players in the New Zealand team. Although Kane Williamson is the star of the team, he acts just like a core member and nothing more. Tim Southee is happy to relinquish his place for in-form Matt Henry and instead take diving catches as a substitute fielder. BJ Watling is going out but has given his complete support to Tom Blundell, the next in line.
This is exactly what this New Zealand team is all about. Actually, this is what sport is about. Give it your all, play aggressively on the field, respect the opposition, live & die for each member of your team.
This quote below encapsulates the dynamic within the Black Caps unit.
Ross Taylor’s Legacy: Stable, Steady, Responsible
One of the most popular cricketing social media question is, “Is Ross Taylor the most underrated batsman of our era?” First of all, I am not a huge fan of these pointless clichés like ‘underrated,’ overrated,’ ‘unluckiest,’ etc., etc.
Anyway, in my books, Taylor will go down as one of the all-time greats of our game. To do what Taylor has done for how long he has done it is truly remarkable. It turns out that slow and steady actually does win you the race.
Will Ross Taylor be remembered as talented as Sir Vivian Richards or the recently retired with confirmation, AB De Villiers? Was he as technically adept as Williamson and the Fab 5? Did he have the exquisite timing of Hashim Amla or the free-flowing nature of Mohammad Yousuf?
It all depends on your point of view, but one thing is for certain—Taylor is the glue that kept New Zealand together for so many years.
What can you learn from his life and apply to yours?
- Dependability – In case of a crisis, you could always depend on Ross Taylor. It might not pay off every time, but he had the uncanny ability of turning gloomy situations into positive ones. Not only as a batsman, his role as a trusted slip fielder as well.
Be dependable. Regardless of what is going around on you, internally or externally, try to weather the storm. Once you overcome the obstacle, lend out a hand and help someone else out in need.
- Balance – Once Taylor rescued NZ from precarious situation, he knew when to accelerate and who to turn the strike to.
Be self-aware. Known your limitations and balance your life accordingly. Too much of anything is harmful. Learn how to maintain a healthy work-life balance.
- Responsibility – Taylor curbed his natural gameplay and transformed from a slogger to an accumulator to suit his side’s needs. In order to accommodate the firepower at the top & the lower order, somebody needed to take the responsibility and be that insurance policy.
Be responsible. Sometimes giving up your own personal comfort for others around you is the way to go. Follow your dreams, but also combine it with a slight dose of practicality.
There is probably no better match than Ross Taylor & the New Zealand cricket team, or shall I say they are tailor-made for each other (bad joke, sorry 😅). His responsible character gelled perfectly into the team spirit.
What will I remember the most? The tongue celebration, his bent stance, hard bottom-hand grip, the slog sweeps, and the numerous partnerships, and the calm demeanor.
I will leave you with a smiling picture of Ross Taylor. Because why not.Embed from Getty Images
Ross Taylor Videos
3. Ross Taylor Vs Pakistan (2011 Cricket World Cup)
4. 25 Questions With Ross Taylor (ESPN Cricinfo)
5. Fastest Century by a BLACKCAP (until Brendon McCullum 2016) – 81 ball century vs Australia (2010)
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):
When things are all said and done, Kane Williamson will probably be regarded as the greatest New Zealand batsman of all time.
Yet, for New Zealand cricket to get to this point, players like Martin Crowe, Ross Taylor, Stephen Fleming, Daniel Vettori, and Brendon McCullum, have played their parts.
Ranked #1 in ODIs, #2 in Tests, and #3 in T20Is according to the latest ICC rankings (2021), the New Zealand cricket team is definitely one of the best going around. The fact that they have qualified for 8 different semi-finals or finals in the last 15 years across the formats makes this generation of New Zealand team one of their bests ever.
Ross Taylor is one of the unsung heroes of New Zealand cricket, but he will go down as one of the all-time greats of our game. To do what Taylor has done for how long he has done it is truly remarkable. It turns out that slow and steady does actually win you the race.
Taylor’s ability to read the situation makes him such a special cricketer. Knows exactly when to attack and when to soak in the pressure.
Taylor’s highest score is 181* in a run-chase in Dunedin (2018) against England.
Second highest score in a successful run chase.
Ross Taylor was born on March 8th, 1984 (8/27/1984).
Taylor’s unique celebration can be credited to his daughter, Mackenzie. It is a tradition that started during his ODI hundred against Australia in 2007 and “made her happy.” He continues his famous tongue-poking celebration to this day and even passed on the tradition to his son, Jonty.
Tribute to Other Cricket Legends
Thank you all for reading! Really appreciate it.
If you like these stories about cricket legends, check these some of my earlier featured articles below:
- Rahul Dravid: What Rahul Dravid Taught Me?
- MS Dhoni & SK Raina: Retirement: An End of an Era
- Shakib-Rahim-Iqbal-Mortaza-Mahmudullah: Why Shakib And Co Are the True Fab 5 of this Era?
- Lasith Malinga: The Slinga, Slayer, and Superstar
- Ellyse Perry: What Can Ellyse Perry Not do?
- Dean Jones: A Celebration of Life
- AB De Villiers & Faf Du Plessis: Can Faf Fulfill the Broken Dream of ABD?
- Umar Gul: The Magician With the Yorker
- Sam Curran: Why the World Needs Same Curran: Calm, Charismatic, Courageous
- Joe Denly & Joe Biden: The Importance of Being Joe
- Nicholas Pooran: A Story of Pain, Hope, & Inspiration: The Next Big Thing of West Indies & World Cricket
5/18/2021 – Copyright – @Nitesh Mathur, aka Nit-X – email@example.com
Image Courtesy: Ross Taylor – Chubby Chandru, CC BY 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons