Shadow of Martin Crowe looms over Basin Reserve as Ross Taylor eyes record
Someone had to say it.
Ross Taylor rose from his seat, cast an eye to the centre of the Basin Reserve and remarked with a grin: "which one is it?"
The emerald green test pitch stared back from the centre of the block, barely discernible from the outfield, as has become customary in recent Wellington tests when visiting batsmen almost take fright.
Bangladesh fast bowler Taskin Ahmed, a likely debutant in the first test, liked it from his vantage point, too. "The bowlers are pretty happy; it's greenish and hard, good to bowl on. We're going to enjoy it," he said.
Should New Zealand be sent in to bat on Thursday by Bangladesh captain Mushfiqur Rahim, Taylor will have to toil hard against the visiting pacemen to draw level with his late mentor, Martin Crowe.
In his 79th test, Taylor sits on 16 centuries after his 102 not out against Pakistan in his previous international innings in Hamilton in November. Crowe's tally of 17 stood for more than two decades; and with five home tests upcoming against Bangladesh and South Africa there's every chance Taylor will be sit atop the tree at the end of March.
"A lot of other people have probably brought it up. Even people in the supermarket come up and mention it," Taylor said in the Norwood Room of the Basin Reserve.
"When Hogan [Crowe] gave me some of the records he wanted me to break, it was more of a motivation in the background. Sometimes you play cricket and just meander along. That's when the goals come into it.
"At the moment I'm pretty happy with where my game's at and if I can get myself in and play well, if the hundred comes it comes and if not I'll continue to try and be as consistent as possible."
Taylor's career numbers are stellar, shaded by captain Kane Williamson's run gorge of the past two years. He's just 162 short of 6000 test runs at an average of 46.7, and arrives in Wellington with clear vision after surgery to remove a growth on his eye in December. "I'm confident in it. It's getting better each week and it will continue to get better the next couple of months."
He declared the Basin one of his favourite grounds, and in nine tests there Taylor averages 55.9 including centuries against India (2009) and West Indies (2013). It hasn't always been a field of dreams, though.
In 2012 he retired hurt for 18 after having his hand broken by a Morne Morkel bouncer, and last February he missed the Australia test due to a side strain. Taylor also missed the Brendon McCullum triple century test against India in 2014 due to the birth of his second child, son Jonty.
The Basin will be a bowl first for whoever captain wins the toss but the Black Caps know it will flatten out in a hurry after a spicy opening session or two, as happened against Australia. The bounce should also cause Bangladesh headaches when they bat, after they struggled to post any competitive scores in six limited overs defeats.
"Over the last few years they haven't played a lot of test cricket away from home so it's going to be difficult on that wicket. We can't take them lightly and I'm sure their fast bowlers will be licking their lips. When there is a bit of green grass it brings the teams a bit closer together," Taylor said.
Bangladesh management confirmed they had a full squad to choose from, with Mushfiqur cleared to keep wicket after a hamstring injury, and opener Imrul Kayes given a clean bill of health after whacking his knee on an advertising hoarding in Tauranga.