England v New Zealand, World T20 2016, Semi-final, Delhi March 29, 2016

Shuffled Taylor feels burden of McCullum void

Ross Taylor's batting position has been pushed down because of a powerful top order, but New Zealand will be hoping that his experience can help provide some defining contributions
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Ross Taylor has looked one cover drive or slog sweep away from form, but can he find it come crunch time? © IDI/Getty Images

There has hardly been a New Zealand press conference in this World T20 where their interviewees haven't been asked about how they are coping without Brendon McCullum, the inspirational captain, the flamboyant leader. The loss of the most experienced batsman, however, is not talked about a lot because McCullum didn't always bat like experienced batsmen do, in the orthodox sense. That job was Ross Taylor's, and in this tournament the burden has only increased.

In a way, it is down to the absence of McCullum the batsman. He was the power house at the top, which is crucial on slow Indian pitches where scoring runs after the Powerplay is an effort. Colin Munro coming out and switch-hitting in the first over of the opening clash of this World T20 might have seemed a little rash, but the plan for New Zealand is to promote the big hitters to do all the scoring while the ball is new and while mis-hits are likelier to clear the infield and run away for fours on quick outfields. Corey Anderson follows Munro in the batting order.

All that has left Taylor in an unfamiliar territory. He likes to build his innings before he can go big. At times, batting at No. 5, he doesn't have the time to do so. Coach Mike Hesson explained the move in Mohali. "Our middle order has probably lacked a bit of power in the past, and we think here we need a bit more power at the top," Hesson had said. "Colin Munro and Corey provide that, and also provide a good left-right combination. Also, we feel as the ball slows up we need a bit more experience through the middle. To have Ross, Grant and Luke Ronchi come out at key times in the game, that's where we think we need that experience."

When Taylor was asked about the move earlier in the tournament, he joked it was not his decision, but this team is full of players happy to move out of their comfort zones for the good of the team. "It is definitely easy to score upfront," Taylor said. "But you still have to play fearless and aggressive cricket but smart cricket as well. Martin Guptill and Munro's job is to get us off to a flying start. Some days it will come off and some days it won't. But this team bats right down to 8 or 9, still have the confidence to go out there and play shots."

League games done, we might have a body of work to analyse how the move has worked. Taylor's own 57 runs in three innings at a strike rate of 118.75 might be an unfairly harsh assessment. For one this has been a tough tournament for No. 5s. Glenn Maxwell scored 109 runs there at a strike rate of 129.76, the best effort at that position. JP Duminy scored 83 at 172.91, but he got only two innings there.

Moreover the starts made by New Zealand need to be looked at. At the end of the Powerplay in these three matches, they were 33 for 2 against India, which was above par, 58 for 0 against Australia, and 55 for 0 against Pakistan. The quick starts, a possible result of the freedom derived from knowledge that Taylor is there in the middle order, proved crucial to all three wins.

Taylor himself has had a better tournament than the number of runs scored by him suggest. Against Pakistan, his 36 off 23 gave New Zealand the final impetus that took the game out of Pakistan's reach. Against India and Australia he struggled to get going, but he has always looked a cover drive on the walk or one sweetly-timed slog sweep away from hitting form. In the dead rubber, against Bangladesh, he was moved to No. 4, but that might have more to do with the fact that the second wicket fell in the ninth over, and also perhaps to give Taylor some time in the middle before the knockouts.

While the world is wondering what next New Zealand will pull out of the bowling hat, where Taylor bats and how he bats is just as important a decision. The move seems to have worked so far, but Taylor would have wanted to make a more defining contribution. He has had the opportunities too. The knockouts are not a bad time to do so.

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  •   Danial Ali Shah on March 30, 2016, 12:28 GMT

    I think rosscoe should come in at no. 3 and munro should come at no. 4. ross is nz's best batsman after kane and he can both anchor and power an innings. plus it will five munro more freedom to hit and lessen his burden of building the innings.

  • blahblah1234567 on March 30, 2016, 11:37 GMT

    myloveislike - yep you're right... just couldn't resist pointing that out

  • myloveislike on March 30, 2016, 9:23 GMT

    You're being a bit pedantic there, Blahblah, wouldn't you say? People do get run out after good shots, but it's not the good shot that leads to the wicket, it's the bad cricket that can follow. With the scoop and the switch hit and the slog it is the shot itself. And I note that you don't bother to even try to defend these poor shots as being productive of runs. As I said, I would like to see the real figures, but my IMPRESSION is that that they have been both costly AND unproductive during the tournament.

  • StevieS on March 30, 2016, 7:07 GMT

    Taylor should come in at 3 or 4, he may not be like Anderson in that he can get 20 off his first 4 balls but he is more likely to get a 80 off 60 and anchor the innings and he is as destructive as anyone once he gets in.

  • EdStainsby on March 30, 2016, 5:34 GMT

    Obviously Taylor's scores have been invaluable in low-scoring games. Keep going Roscoe!

  • blahblah1234567 on March 30, 2016, 1:44 GMT

    myloveislike - I'm sure plenty of people have been run out by placing the ball in a gap all along the ground

  • myloveislike on March 29, 2016, 20:37 GMT

    A switch hit after facing only a couple of balls doesn't just seem a little rash - it is a little rash (and it isn't our first little rash, is it?). Someone should do a detailed analysis of how many runs have been scored and how many wickets have ben lost on the scoop, the switch hit, and the mistimed slog into the outfield during this tournament. But one thing I am absolutely sure of - not a single batsman has been dismissed hitting along the ground through a gap, and that is what good players do. And the REALLY good players show that playing that way can produce buckets of runs.

  • Stratocaster on March 29, 2016, 17:46 GMT

    @Outside Off I still say that we lost Aussie test series due to Taylor's injury. He was one batsman who we lacked to support Williamson and Mccullum. And I would say this, Hesson and Co know more about the team than we do and so far they have done the right thing. Taylor provides stability to the middle order so we won't collapse (like we did against Pak in 2009 or SL in 2014). And why drop Elliott? Guy gives you solid runs on a pitch that has runs in it and 2-3 overs of nice dibble dobbles. What's not to like?

  • Outside-off on March 29, 2016, 16:53 GMT

    @ Sirbazza McCullum worshipper alert. So u going to troll like an idiot now? Who has the highest SR so far in our top 5? Who has the highest agg? You are deluded if 1: you think that's why we have won the games this WC 2; you can show me how Ross Taylor batting where he has his entire career is to the teams detriment. The Taylor/Williamson partnership is our most successful and to not understand how that's helped Kanes batting rise is disingenuous to say the least. We will see who is deluded tomorrow night my friend. If we bat with the line up as it stands 90% we lose.

  • SirBazza on March 29, 2016, 15:58 GMT

    Outside-Off, you are deluded my friend! Have to keep the fire power at the top, keep Taylor (the noodler), in the middle order. If Taylor comes in at 3 and slows down the rr we are in trouble plain and simple.

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