It's only March but Ross Taylor has come up with a resolution for next year - or maybe just next season - already. "I think I am going to start [keeping count of] how many games I can play without getting injured," Taylor joked during a stint on the Dilmah Tea Party, SkyTV's daily tea-time interview slot, during the fourth day's play between New Zealand and South Africa in Hamilton. "Calf, hammies, side-strains, fingers, bones. It's just disappointing that it's South Africa I have missed a few times."
Taylor has missed some part of the last three series against South Africa, the first in the aftermath of the captaincy debacle in 2012-13, the second a limited-overs series in 2015 following surgery after a groin injury sustained in Zimbabwe, and now the last two Tests in this series, after tearing a calf in the first.
Although Taylor admitted that not having to front up to "Morkel and Rabada is probably not a bad thing," he said he would like to play as much as he can in the lead-up to the 2019 World Cup, which is being touted as the swansong of his career. His most recent injury has served to spur him on to ensure he gets there. "I just need motivation when things aren't going well, when you get a bit tired of day-in, day-out cricket, just a nice little reminder to say why you play this game. Hopefully I can get through that."
For now, Taylor has declared himself 85-90% fit and should be available to play the Champions Trophy and the triangular tournament in Ireland, also featuring Bangladesh, which precedes the ICC event. New Zealand will be without their IPL players for that tri-series, which will make Taylor's presence even more important and he hopes he can play a role in mentoring some of the younger players. "You want to expose young players to get the depth in the squad that we are comfortable with," he said. "[So] we have 20 players at any time that can be very competitive against any side in the world."
One thing he may not be teaching them is to copy his signature celebration of sticking his tongue out on reaching a century. "I did it when I was youngster growing up - I got a cheeky hundred, I was dropped a couple of times and then I got a cheeky hundred so I did it. When my daughter was growing up, she was 2 or 3, she said, 'Daddy, can you get a hundred for me and poke your tongue out?' So that's what I do now," he said.
Taylor has had the chance to do that in two ODIs and a Test this summer, which is not his best tally but has contributed to what he regards as an overall period of good progress for the team. "It has been a great summer," he said. "Regardless of what happens [in this Test], it has been a successful summer. We retained the Chappell-Hadlee and got some convincing results against Pakistan and Bangladesh. We could finish off the summer really well with a Test victory here and we've seen some young players coming through and some veterans stepping up."
The highlight, though, has been the way Kane Williamson has stepped up to the captaincy. Since taking on the job in July last year, Williamson has scored 1079 runs at an average of 59.94 which includes four Test hundreds. He has also become the fastest New Zealander to 5,000 runs and equalled Martin Crowe's century haul, and Taylor believes there's no limit to what he can achieve.
"He is only 26. He is in fantastic form and he scored a great hundred here. Add into it how the team played in Wellington, going into a must-win match and having to step up at a crucial time, to get a century here - every one starts talking about how many he is going to get," Taylor said. "He could go down as our best batsman."