ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 / Features
World Cup 2011
Taylor's upper cut leaves a lasting image
The unorthodox shot is the sole Hawaiian shirt in a wardrobe of plain or striped office wear that includes pure drives, and correct clips and lofts
March 12, 2011
One of the lasting images from Group A, which has produced few, is Brendan Taylor's take on that most modern limited-overs shot: the upper cut. One of the first times the shot came into the public eye was Adam Gilchrist dabbing a short ball from Darren Gough over the keeper and slips in the 2001 Ashes.
Since then, and since Twenty20 happened to cricket, it has popped up all over the place; Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag have probably played it better and more often than most.
But Taylor has gotten closer than anybody to the true intent of the shot: that is, to not redirect the short ball anywhere or deflect it, but merely help it along its original path and line and take third man out of the equation altogether. Against a Lasith Malinga bouncer around off stump on Thursday, Taylor swayed back and merely helped the ball along over Kumar Sangakkara's head. Against New Zealand earlier in the tournament, the short ball was closer to his body so he leant back further and more or less ramped it to a very fine, fine leg.
It is, he says, a stroke of instinct, formed at the very last instant, once line and length have been fully decoded. It is also one of necessity because, he says, he's not very comfortable pulling. He's been playing it for the last few months, having done something similar to Charl Langeveldt in an outstanding unbeaten 145 against South Africa last October. He has given no name to it, leaving that to commentators, journalists and corporate types. Against Pakistan's fast bowlers on Monday, in Pallekele, he will surely get an opportunity to showcase it again. Inevitably the question is asked. "Will you try it against Shoaib Akhtar"
"Whatever he bowls I will be watching the ball closely and I hope to give myself a good chance out there and show my ability to bat against him," Taylor replied, a deflection as opposed to a ramp, after training in Pallekele.
Impressive as the stroke is, it is the sole Hawaiian shirt in a wardrobe of plain or striped office wear. His 80 against Sri Lanka was notable not for the upper cut, but for the purity and correctness of his driving and even his lofts and clips. One sweep off Muttiah Muralitharan, picked up outside off, was sent skidding perfectly between midwicket and square leg on the boundary. At the crease he cuts an impeccable sort of profile.
He's had a good World Cup, starting but not fully going on against New Zealand and Sri Lanka, something which Zimbabwe need him to do. Once he fell against Sri Lanka, the rest fell swiftly. "It's very frustrating and I don't have the answers," he said. "But knowing the guys' work ethic and their preparation and skill, they've got maximum amount of ability and it's frustrating not seeing them put it on display in the middle. I'm sure they can pull something out of the hat on Monday."
His own record against the stronger teams is worthy enough even if he averages just under 30 against Test-playing nations: two of his three one-day hundreds have come against Sri Lanka and South Africa, with the third against Bangladesh, and 14 of his 21 half-centuries have been against Test sides, though five of those are against Bangladesh. Taylor said the experience of playing against the big guns in the World Cup is helping him.
"There are so many good players here to watch and learn from. I've learnt about playing in different conditions, under lights, playing in humid conditions, and I've picked up new things. Playing different teams every game, you are always going to be up against it. I feel I have done my preparation and it's just a matter of executing my skills."
There will be several talented players on the pitch on Monday. "Players like Shahid Afridi, Shoaib Akhtar and Umar Gul are bowling very well. They are a good all-round team and we know they will be up for it after their performance against New Zealand, so it would be a good challenge. We've got to front up. Their bowling would be more of a threat to be honest, but we know they have some capable strikers of the ball. So far in the tournament, the likes of Afridi in the middle overs and their seamers have done a good job for them."
Something about Taylor appears intrinsically, but not ostentatiously, upbeat, and in a team that will, for now, lose more than it wins it isn't a bad trait. Pakistan are Pakistan as every side knows and capable of doing a Pakistan on any day. Bangladesh have just beaten England, and Ireland did the same. The spirit may float over across to Sri Lanka.
Taylor said Bangladesh's win on Friday would act as an inspiration for Zimbabwe. "We know that it's a must win game for us but at the same time it's a serious challenge for us so we've got to believe that we can win otherwise there is no point going onto the field. The guys are very determined and hungry to succeed and are always positive. We have to put the performance against Sri Lanka behind us and look forward to a very big challenge on Monday. We know what we are up against and we've got to come out believing we can compete and hopefully put in a good performance and, who knows, maybe win."
On the Road: Melinda Farrell meets Chris Rogers in Perth, where he spent his formative cricketing years
Inbox: The joys of reading about a game the next day in print
Jeff Hammond reminisces about the game in the '70s, and Australia's tour of the West Indies in 1973
Poor shots, run-outs, making ordinary bowling look terrifying - Ahmer Naqvi looks at the team's meltdowns this year
Stats highlights of the second day's play between India and England in Mohali