OPINION: What Ross Taylor has achieved this year as a test batsman for New Zealand has been incredible - and that was highlighted by his performance against the West Indies in Hamilton yesterday.
Taylor, who scored 131 in the Black Caps' first innings, has been breaking all sorts of Kiwi test batting records, and will head into today needing just eight more runs to become the highest-scoring test batsman in a calendar year (beating John R. Reid's 1965 season) - if he gets a chance to bat.
I think we can start the discussion about calling Taylor a world-class batsman. Look at his test average - 47.49. As far as averages go, anything above 45 and you're in the top five per cent of batsman around the world.
If you're averaging more than 50, you're one of the true great players, be that of the modern or past generations.
Three back-to-back centuries - regardless of who they were against - is an incredible effort.
They haven't been easy hundreds either. They've been grinding hundreds on wickets that NZ have been sent in on, apart from Hamilton.
Compare Taylor's composure to this time last year, and it's like he's a different bloke. He's been selective with his shot-making, and shown an incredible concentration to bat for incredibly long periods at the crease. More than 19 hours in three test matches is a phenomenal effort in anyone's book.
You've got to think back to that break he took from the Kiwi test team following that whole captaincy debacle last December. He wasn't in a great space at that time - and rightly so. What happened to Taylor was tough. It would have been tough for anyone to take, and I think he needed time to get away from the game and re-assess his desire to play. We are seeing the benefits of that now.
He works incredibly hard on his game; talking regularly to Martin Crowe about batting and the mental side of test cricket. I look at Taylor now, and see a man who wants to go down in the history books as a great New Zealand player.
Through his batting, he's saying to his team-mates: "Follow me. Follow my lead. I'll show you how to graft and build a test-match innings; how to bat for long periods of time. Stick with me and I'll lead the way in this batting line-up".
I like the look of the Black Caps one-day team heading into the series against the West Indies that starts in Auckland on Boxing Day. It's a very aggressive batting side. Apart from Kane Williamson, who can still certainly find the boundary, you've got a top order who love to hit big.
Jesse Ryder and Martin Guptill are back, and then further down the order you've got Brendon McCullum at five, Luke Ronchi at six, Corey Anderson at seven, James Neesham at eight and Nathan McCullum at nine. There's some real power there.
The Windies are a team we should be looking to target, especially in the absence of Kieron Pollard and Chris Gayle. They are a better one-day outfit than they are a test team, and have a couple of players who can win them one-day games. Still, New Zealand should be aiming to win the series least 3-2, but it's more likely to be 4-1.
Obviously the inclusion of Ryder is a big talking point.
I'm glad he's back. We've got to remember he's not an automatic selection when he feels he's ready - he has to be in on merit, and he's been playing well for Otago in four-day cricket. His runs there have been in pretty aggressive fashion, too.
- Sunday News
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