At the age of 30 and having competed in 54 Tests it is fair to assume that New Zealand batsman Ross Taylor has now passed the halfway point of his international career. During this time Taylor has built a platform from which he can now launch a bid to go down as his country’s greatest ever batsman.
Ross Taylor - New Zealand's greatest in waiting?
54 Tests, 4,178 runs, ave. 46.94
137 ODIs, 4,328 runs, ave. 40.07
55 T20Is, 980 runs, ave. 23.90
Even now Taylor is already amongst the elite of New Zealand bladesmen, sitting seventh in the all-time list – although granted this is a list not as prestigious as certain other nations.
Going purely on Test averages alone Taylor’s 46.9 comfortably places him at the summit, with Martin Crowe - the man many believe to be New Zealand’s greatest - second in this regard with an average of 45.4.
In terms of average runs per Test Taylor is again on top of the pile, his record of 77.4 ousting second placed Andrew Jones by 2.5 runs per Test. Crowe does, however, hold the edge in relation to the average number of Tests per century, with the openers return of 4.5 Tests per ton superior to Taylor’s figure of 4.9 – although Crowe is the only Black Caps batsman who can better that number.
The One-Day International statistics paint a similar picture of dominance, with Taylor the only New Zealand player to average above 40 in this form of the game.
That record is made all the more impressive given his average strike rate of 82.4 can only be bettered by the destructive duo of Brendon McCullum and Chris Cairns amongst the leading run scorers. Only Nathan Astle has more limited overs centuries for New Zealand, although Taylor’s tons have come at a fractionally better ratio.
Based on Taylor’s current Test statistics it can be predicted that it will take a further 39 Tests for him to surpass Stephen Fleming’s Test run-scoring record – which would incidently be 17 quicker than the ex-skipper. It is anticipated Crowe’s record of 17 centuries will come slightly sooner (after 88 Tests), although Taylor will have to improve his ratio considerably to get those in less Tests than the 77 it took Crowe.
In regards to ODIs it can be calculated that to overtake Fleming Taylor will require a further 117 games and 82 to overhaul Astle’s 17 hundreds.
It wouldn’t be unrealistic to assume that Taylor will have another five years of cricket in him, which should provide ample opportunity to reach these landmarks, given that over the next three years alone the ICC Future Tours Programme indicates that New Zealand are scheduled to play 30 Tests.
It is also worth noting that at 30 Taylor should be fully developed as an International cricketer and is now in the age bracket where batsmen generally hit their peak years, which suggests these records may come quicker than forecasted.
The numbers of the last two years back up this opinion, with only six players on the list of the 30 top run-scorers during this time period averaging more than Taylor’s 59.6.
Some have pointed to this run coinciding with a generous run of series, but it is difficult to argue with such a sheer weight of runs. Only time will prove whether this a mere purple patch, although that this timeframe comprises 37 per cent of Taylor’s Test career and that he faced seven different nations during it suggests more a case of him fully maturing as an international cricketer.
Despite the statistical evidence, there are many who doubt Taylor’s credentials as New Zealand’s current leading batsman let alone one of the best of the current generation.
There is a perception which is perhaps based around his aggressive batting style that Taylor is a player who lacks the ability to produce pivotal knocks, particularly in the longer format. In general, though, New Zealand don’t win many Tests - in the last 10 years winning just 27 per cent.
In the 11 victories that Taylor has participated he averages a hefty 69.4 and has contributed five centuries – none of his team-mates has scored more in victorious situations. Even Crowe can only claim two centuries in winning situations, which somewhat belittles the view of Taylor not being a match-winner.
A flaw on his record that is however difficult to ignore is a second innings average of just 36.6 with only a single century.
This is a problem that has consistently affected New Zealand’s batting as a whole throughout the last decade; only the West Indies and Bangladesh average less than New Zealand’s 26.3 runs per second innings wicket, whilst only the West Indies have a greater disparity between first and second innings averages per wicket.
Digging deeper into Taylor’s record brings up other minor blemishes, just as it would for the vast proportion of other batsman.
Breaking down his runs by nation, the two clear deficiencies are against Australia and South Africa whom Taylor averages 36.8 and 30.1 against respectively. Analysing these returns further though highlight reasons for the low averages, given Taylor has not played Australia since 2011 and is vastly improved since then, whilst the opening two Tests of his career came in South Africa and considerably hamper his overall five Test record against the Proteas.
There is also room for improvement in relation to Taylor’s away record, given he averages just 37 outside of New Zealand. With 22 away Tests scheduled into the Future Tours Programme over the next three years Taylor will have more than sufficient chances to put that right. In fact he has already begun to do so with analysis since January 2012 revealing an away average of 44.6.
These next few years are likely to define Taylor. At the pinnacle of his powers and supported by New Zealand’s strongest side in a decade, he has the opportunity to rise to not only to the summit of New Zealand batting but put clear daylight between him and the rest.
There is also the potential for Taylor to at least in small part progress the statistic that New Zealand’s leading run scorer is ranked just 41st on the all-time list, considering every other major nation can boast a player in the top 15 and at least two in the top 20 that is quite remarkable.
© Cricket World 2014