Here is another typical sport story that becomes the stuff of movies – athlete gets success, athlete gets leadership, there are differences of opinion, athlete gets marginalized, athlete battles physical infirmity, does not give up and comes back stronger. Proves to himself as well as others that he still has it in him but unfortunately Father Time does not sit still all this while. He is now considered older and not suited to every format – gradually he starts making way for others. You could have ended the movie on a high at any point in the above narrative but if you want more twists in the scripts, do not worry since the athlete refused to ride away quietly into the sunset. He is older, wiser, more experienced but just as combative.
Hagley Oval is a picturesque ground in Christchurch. It looks alluring even from small confines of the TV that beams images through the WatchESPN channel. Pitch looks slower and very unlike the seaming green tops New Zealand would produce in the first decade of 2000 – mainly to deflate a rampant India and other subcontinental teams. New Zealand are batting first and after they lost Latham, Brownlie plays a nice little cameo – with three fours in one Chris Morris over followed by a perfect straight drive an over later. He is deceived by a slower ball but to the first impression is its going down leg. In the absence of any guidance from his captain at the other end he does not review. Replays indicate the ball comfortably missing leg.
Content initially to play second fiddle to his captain – a man much younger and widely acknowledged as one of the best in the country of all time – Taylor comes into his own in the latter half of the innings. The mind keeps imagining the savage strokes that will be unfurled but Taylor is sensible. When its wide he lashes a cover drive, when Pretorius and Phehlukwayo bowl short he rolls his writs. These shots are punctuated by quiet periods characterized by purposeful running. He looks serene at the crease and even an on field review of a decision does not faze him. He seems confident of the decision which gets overruled by an umpire’s call and Taylor carries on.
In the last over of the innings with Taylor in the 90s there is a nervous moment before that when Dave Miller almost pulls off a stunner but overbalances himself. Taylor gets to three figures with a boundary off the last ball of the innings. Its exactly the kind of stuff scriptwriters get paid to conjure onscreen.
Today his innings was one of a man who was playing from memory and willing his body and hands to follow along. The mind sharp as ever seems to be ahead of the hands a couple of times. I longed for the slog to come out but the South African bowlers prove much harder to put away. I had to be content with a couple square drives off Tahir long hops.
Its hard to assess how you develop a soft corner for one player versus another. There is something you see in him that appeals to your personal nature. In many ways the understated presence of Taylor resonates with me. His signature celebration of sticking his tongue out is quirky but devoid of ostentation – almost natural.
I still remember one of his innings in 2011 World Cup against Pakistan where he tore into everyone in the last 5 overs – the shots he played are as vivid in the mind’s eyes as in the youtube footage. I believe it was his birthday and boy did he know how to party!!
Generally Kiwi cricketers seem more easy going than most others. The brand of cricket espoused by Brendon McCullum may not win approval by their harder nosed neighbors down under but it works well for them. Rosco seems like an embodiment of that spirit – go about your business and don’t take yourself too seriously.
I would be waiting to hear his version of the events around his career but I suspect I would have to wait forever for a tell-all biography like McCullum’s. Complaining and rattling old skeletons was never Rosco’s style and hopefully it stays that way.
His T20 career may be over with the coach Mike Hesson implying it without stating it in obvious terms. Taylor still seems to have hunger and ability to entertain in the longer forms of the game.
Take a bow Rosco and welcome back. You were missed.