Taylor’s stroke of inspiration
Bengaluru, Aug 31: A time of distress determines the real character of a man. The ability to lead the fight when it’s so easy to give up is the sign of a leader. And Ross Taylor ticked that box quite commendably on Day 1 of the Bengaluru Test. New Zealand had struggled to cross 175 in the first Test – they managed 159 and 164 – while the innings and 115-run defeat, highlighted their ineptitude against spin bowling like never before.
After that Test, Taylor had spoken about the need for his batsmen to unclutter their minds and bat freely. And at the first opportunity, the captain walked the talk with a dazzling 113 off 127 balls on an overcast day. It was Taylor’s seventh Test century, and perhaps the most special one.
“Of all my hundreds, this was probably the one under most pressure,” he said. “Being a young captain it’s a nice feeling and I tried to lead from the front. But I have a lot more hope to give to this team and a few more 100s as well,” Taylor said at the end of day’s play.
From 89 for three in the first session, the Kiwis could so easily have gone on the back foot. But Taylor came out with a strong intent. “After losing Brendon [McCullum] early, we didn’t want to go into a shell. We stuck to our guns. We wanted to play attacking brand of cricket, but by taking calculative risks,” he said.
While all bowlers bore the brunt of Taylor’s willow, Pragyan Ojha felt the pain the most – he was hit for four boundaries in an over, and in all seven fours and a six. The plan worked just fine, as the fielders moved away and the bowlers’ line was disturbed. And the New Zealand skipper raced to his century in 99 balls.
As Taylor pointed out at the end of the match, batting first on a good track aided him in implementing his plan. “When you’ve got a big score on the board, like India posted in the first Test, you can afford to have a lot of men around the bat; but not in the first innings of a Test.
“The fields were less attacking today and hence we could play our shots. It’s not easy batting in subcontinent with men around the bat. But when the field is spread out, it’s a hell of a lot easier,” Taylor admitted.
However, he agreed that at times, his approach bordered on being overaggressive. “I wanted to be attacking, but you’ve still got to find a balance. I was probably a bit too attacking at different stages,” he admitted, ruing the fact that he couldn’t finish the day unbeaten. “I got a hundred, so it’s a tick in the box. But it would’ve been so much better if I was still batting.”
Taylor would’ve well been unbeaten overnight if it wasn’t for an ill-judged sweep shot off a flighted, fuller delivery by Ojha. Taylor was particularly heavy on the sweep, executing the shot 11 times during his innings. It gave him 19 runs, including three boundaries and a six; but it also got him out.
“I don’t use my feet a lot so I’ve got to try and create other opportunities to score runs. It did lead to my downfall but got me a few runs as well. I’ve got to pick the right ball to play it,” he said.
New Zealand might have lost six wickets on the day but their skipper is just happy that his batsmen could, finally, express themselves while displaying their natural game.
“Our top six are stroke-players. Whatever comes natural to you gets you the best result. If your natural instincts take over, more often than not you take the right decisions. A lot of times when we come to subcontinent we try and bat long periods of time, but I think we’ll learn a lot form this innings.”
The century was especially satisfying for Taylor because it was his first Test ton in the subcontinent and only second away from home. “I’ve scored runs overseas in ODIs but have struggled in Test cricket. This is a positive step and hope I can build on this as we have a lot of overseas Tests coming up,” Kiwi skipper said.
It was only apt that Taylor’s first Test ton in India came at Bengaluru. Taylor’s connection with the Bengaluru crowd goes back to his days with the Royal Challengers Bangalore franchise of the IPL. They cheered every boundary and chanted his name as he went after the Indian bowlers. “I’ve got fond memories out here with the Bangalore crowd and people have always been good to me. So hopefully, they enjoyed it.”
Like the crowd, Taylor too enjoyed it when he was told that he had become only the second New Zealand captain to score a Test century in India, after Glenn Turner did it way back in 1976.
After ending the day on 328 for six, he now hopes Kruger van Wyk (63*) and Doug Bracewell (30*) add to their partnership of 82 runs and take New Zealand to the 400-run mark. “The new ball will swing a bit in the morning. If they can see it through and keep going, we can put up a formidable total.”
As the two unbeaten batsmen set out to put New Zealand in a dominating position, their captain’s courageous knock will be their inspiration.