‘A bit too much has been made of New Zealand be­ing nice guys’

World’s sec­ond-best one-day bats­man Ross Tay­lor tells Is­abelle West­bury how lo­cal knowl­edge can help tour­na­ment dark horses

The Daily Telegraph - Sport - - Cricket World Cup 2019 -

If there is one team who thrive on go­ing about their busi­ness qui­etly, un­der the radar, it is New Zealand. Even within this team the names of Kane Wil­liamson, Trent Boult and Tim Southee spring to the fore. But the one man most qui­etly go­ing about his busi­ness, and ex­e­cut­ing it bet­ter than al­most any other, is Ross Tay­lor. He av­er­ages 68 from the 59 one-day in­ter­na­tion­als he has played since the last World Cup, num­bers bet­tered only by Vi­rat Kohli.

“It’s prob­a­bly ex­pe­ri­ence,” shrugs New Zealand’s all-time lead­ing ODI run-scorer. “When you’ve played 200 games, you know your role in the team and I’m just trying to bat to the sit­u­a­tion as best as pos­si­ble, trust that that is what you are do­ing right. And more of­ten than not when you gather enough ev­i­dence about how to play a cer­tain way, you are mak­ing the right de­ci­sion.”

As the only mem­ber of the squad to have fea­tured in three World Cups, there is a sense that this is the mo­ment Tay­lor’s ca­reer has been build­ing to­wards. He was New Zealand’s lead­ing run-scorer in the 2011 tour­na­ment but his av­er­age dur­ing World Cups, a not-ig­no­ble 36, is more than 10 runs lower than his over­all ODI av­er­age.

Tay­lor sug­gests the struc­ture of past World Cups may have played a part in this statis­tic, as the group for­mat and par­tic­i­pa­tion of lower-ranked teams meant top-or­der bats­men did not al­ways get much time in the mid­dle. This year, when the 10 teams play each other be­fore the knock­out stage, is some­thing the 35-year-old views as a “pretty fair sys­tem”.

He is, how­ever, leav­ing noth­ing to chance. While nine of New Zealand’s 15-man squad played in the In­dian Premier League be­fore the World Cup, Tay­lor headed to Mid­dle­sex, for a stint in county cricket and the less con­spic­u­ous Royal Lon­don One-day Cup. Tay­lor, re­mem­ber, is a man who keeps his head down.

“I just wanted to ex­pe­ri­ence it,” he says. “Cricket is also about know­ing the sur­round­ings. It’s not nec­es­sar­ily the wicket; it’s the train­ing fa­cil­i­ties, it’s the chang­ing rooms, to get fa­mil­iar with that.”

This at­ten­tion to de­tail is part of a prepa­ra­tion which, Tay­lor re­veals, has been years in the mak­ing. “I think that’s a big rea­son

for why I came over last year to play at Notts,” he says. “That’s still not go­ing to be the dif­fer­ence be­tween you scoring runs, but I think it does help. When you get to a ground and it’s not as for­eign as some of the other grounds around the world.”

Tay­lor is softly spo­ken and at ease with his lot. It was not al­ways so; a tur­bu­lent stint as cap­tain,

which ended in 2012, fol­lowed by a vivid de­scrip­tion of his fail­ings in Bren­don Mccul­lum’s au­to­bi­og­ra­phy, a man he ini­tially beat to the cap­taincy, has taught Tay­lor over time to sup­press some of his more fiery feel­ings. “If you win the game and you’re scoring runs,” says Tay­lor, with an air of fi­nal­ity, “that speaks louder than words a lot of the time.”

Tay­lor’s ap­proach is re­flected in New Zealand’s rep­u­ta­tion, of be­ing equani­mous, gen­tle­men crick­eters. And no, he is not wor­ried that this might de­tract from their abil­ity to per­form as pro­fes­sional crick­eters, some­thing their more pug­na­cious Aus­tralian neigh­bours have at times been quick to ac­cuse them of.

“You can only be true to your­self and true to your values, I think,” muses Tay­lor. “A lit­tle bit too much has been made of [the ‘nice guys’ moniker]. If some­one does get into your face, it’s not as though we are go­ing to take a back­ward step. But we don’t go out there and out­wardly do things. To say that we don’t sledge is prob­a­bly a lit­tle ex­ces­sive.

“There are a lot of other as­pects of cricket – your body lan­guage, your pres­ence out there – which are just as valu­able. It’s just a dif­fer­ent way of skin­ning a cat, I sup­pose. As long as you are win­ning games of cricket, it doesn’t mat­ter.”

Af­ter trounc­ing In­dia in their first warm-up on Satur­day, with Tay­lor con­tribut­ing 71, win­ning is ex­actly what New Zealand are do­ing. Tay­lor says that he is more com­fort­able with his game than at any pre­vi­ous point in his ca­reer. Fa­ther­hood has been a large con­tribut­ing fac­tor.

“I’m sleep­ing on the couch at the mo­ment,” he says, be­fore ex­plain­ing that this is only be­cause his 18-month-old youngest child is quite noisy dur­ing the night. “A lot of the time, there are a lot of good rea­sons for your fam­ily to come with you [on tour]. It’s a great ex­pe­ri­ence for them, and there­fore for you. School is good, but ex­pe­ri­enc­ing a dif­fer­ent cul­ture and see­ing all the land­marks; first and fore­most you are a dad and cricket is prob­a­bly sec­ond.”

While New Zealand might not be favourites, do not let that fool you. “We are an ag­gres­sive side,” in­sists Tay­lor. “And as long as you do it in your own way, you don’t have to be any­one else that you don’t want to be.” As for Tay­lor, he wants to be a World Cup win­ner. Do not bet against it.

Man in form: Ross Tay­lor hits through the off side on his way to mak­ing 71 against In­dia on Satur­day

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