By David Leggat
Don’t expect Ross Taylor to be talking up his impending Test milestone for two reasons – firstly, it’s not his style, and secondly he has a clear memory of what happened when he reached a notable statistic in his ODI career.
In February 2018, Taylor made his 200th ODI appearance, against Pakistan at his most successful venue, Hamilton’s Seddon Park.
🎶 In the bonds of love we meet 🎶— Sky Sport NZ (@skysportnz) February 20, 2020
🏏 A moving moment as @RossLTaylor celebrates the opening of his 1️⃣0️⃣0️⃣th @BLACKCAPS Test Match alongside his children and his teammates, as his family watch on from the stands #TaylorTon #NZvIND pic.twitter.com/qmT9cSS89V
Far from it being an occasion to celebrate, Taylor was out for just a single in the BLACKCAPS five-wicket win.
‘’I didn’t enjoy it. A bit too much was made of that,’’ Taylor said.
‘’I didn’t want a fuss over it, but at the end of the day you’ve got to do your job and be proud of what you achieve.’’
There’s a pile of cricket achievements for Taylor to be chuffed about as he prepares for his 100th test, against India at the Basin Reserve, but he’s in no rush to puff out his chest.
His view is best wait until he puts the bat away in the cupboard for the last time, then reflect on what cricket has brought him.
‘’There’s a lot of milestones you could probably look back on your career once you’re retired and be proud.
‘’Don’t get me wrong; I will be, but I’ve still got a job to do in that game,’’ he said of the Indian Test.
Until the Test begins, Taylor will be one of just two players ever with 99 matches to his name, the other being disgraced former Indian captain Mohammad Azharuddin.
Once ball one is delivered, Taylor will become the fourth New Zealander to bring up that particular century.
Daniel Vettori occupies top spot on 112 Tests; Stephen Fleming got to 111 and Brendon McCullum made it to 101.
It is an exclusive BLACKCAPS group. The next name to join the list is likely to be the current captain Kane Williamson, who is set for his 79th Test at the Basin.
Taylor, in his quiet moments, has plenty to reflect on in a Test career which began in South Africa in inauspicious circumstances in November 2007. The two Tests on that trip produced 15, 4, 17 and 8 at Johannesburg and Centurion as the BLACKCAPS were twice flattened by a formidable South African outfit.
However Test No 3 a few months later produced the first of Taylor’s 19 hundreds, a fine 120 to help set up a win over England at Seddon Park.
That was the first of his six centuries in Hamilton, so no wonder it’s a ground for which he has special affection.
Since then, Taylor has rattled up centuries against all test-playing nations, apart from South Africa.
Altogether, he has made four against the West Indies – three in a purple patch in late 2013 where he made 217 not out, 129 and 131 in successive home Tests – three apiece against England, India and Zimbabwe, two against Pakistan and Australia and one apiece against Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.
Taylor is reluctant to single out one particular innings as sitting above the others in terms of a personal pecking order.
‘’Sometimes the best innings are those when no one knows what’s going on – whether (son) Jonty has been sick and I’ve been up at 4am, or had a bad sleep, and gone out and got 60-odd when you’ve had two hours sleep. That’s where you have mental strength.
‘’Sometimes you feel really good and get no runs, but when you’re going through a bit of adversity that shows how resilient you can be.
‘’Those can be the more special innings when even though you didn’t get 100 and people think you probably should have. But those 60s or 70s when you haven’t quite felt right for whatever reason are sometimes best.’’
Some statistics are well worth noting.
His 7174 Test runs at 46.28 top the list for New Zealand; his 19 hundreds are bettered only by Williamson’s 21; his 52 Test scores over 50 – equal with Williamson – trail only Fleming’s 55.
Taylor’s 290 against Australia in Perth in 2015 is New Zealand’s third-highest individual Test score, behind McCullum’s 302 and his mentor Martin Crowe’s 299.
His 145 Test catches are second only to Fleming’s 171, and way ahead of the next best; Taylor’s 138 ODI catches, by the way, are 48 ahead of the second-best active player, Martin Guptill.
Only McCullum, with four, is ahead of Taylor’s three Test scores in excess of 200.
His eye operation in early 2016 made a significant difference and there’s been no loss of productivity as he has moved through his early thirties.
‘’But I still don’t think I’ve scored enough Test runs as I would have liked, so I’m hoping I can get even more productive in the test game.’’
Taylor always felt he could play international white ball cricket. He believes there was an early pereception that he was a white ball player only and he’d always wanted to break that.
‘’If you said I would play 100 Tests at the start of my career I’m sure you could have talked to my coaches and they wouldn’t have thought that.’’
View this post on Instagram
24,128 deliveries faced in international cricket and counting. Today @rossltaylor3 is set to become the first player to feature in 100 matches in each international format. What is your message for Ross today? #NZvIND #StatChat #CricketNation #Cricket #TaylorTon 📷= @photosportnz
He made the point that for all his success ‘’I’ve failed a lot as well. You don’t always score runs but when you do fail hopefully you learn from it and come out of those tough periods a better player for it.
‘’I certainly feel a better player than I was a few years ago. I’m continually wanting to learn.’’
As for the R word, Taylor believes that at 35 he has much to offer, on and off the park.
‘’I still feel I deserve my spot in the team and am enjoying it.
‘’I don’t want to just be hanging around for the sake of it. But if I’m enjoying it and still offering something, then why retire?’’