There may be no point asking if you know who owns second-best ODI batting average since the last World Cup, because of course you have read the headline, and seen the photo above. But would you have known that? Could you have guessed it? Ross Taylor slides low.

Too old to claim membership among batting's "Fab Four", and too embedded in New Zealand's Nice Guys Collective (TM) to trumpet his own successes, Taylor has quietly put together one of the most impressive ODI records over the last four years. In doing so he has not only reinvented his own limited-overs batting, he has also surmounted a substantial medical obstacle.

We will get to the growth in Taylor's game, as well as the growth in his eye and the surgery that has helped transform him into one of the best ODI batsmen on the planet. But first, let us establish his credentials.

Since the 2015 World Cup, only Virat Kohli (on his way to being the greatest one-day batsman) has had a better average than Taylor. Although others - especially openers - have had better strike rates, almost no one has been more consistent. In the 12 innings leading up to this India series, Taylor has been dismissed for less than 50 only twice. One-thirty-seven, 90, 54, 86*, 80, 181* - so read his six most-recent scores.

Although it would seem that Kane Williamson - who hit five consecutive half-centuries the last time these two teams met in New Zealand - was the key figure in New Zealand's top order, Taylor has actually left Williamson in the dust since the last World Cup. Taylor's average of 69.72 is more than 21 runs better than Williamson's in the same period.

What's more, it is Taylor who is most likely to strike up a big partnership with one of the other senior batsmen in any ODI innings. In the list containing the top 15 partnerships (by average) since the last World Cup, Taylor's name appears three times - Tom Latham, Williamson and Martin Guptill being the men with whom he has put up the most productive stands. Taylor has been especially effective alongside Latham - a fact Taylor puts down to the ease with which Latham settles into an innings.

"Tom is great to bat with, and we have a right-left hand combination, which quite often goes really well," Taylor says. "At the start of his innings, especially against slow bowlers, Tom can manipulate the field really well. Quite often how you start the partnership can dictate a lot of how much pressure you're put under."

Only Kohli appears as often as Taylor on this list; Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan and Ajinkya Rahane are his preferred partners.

So how has Taylor orchestrated his ODI advance? Until the end of the 2015 World Cup, Taylor was a good ODI batsman with an average in the low forties. Yet since then, he has quickly become a world-beater, rising to No. 3 on the rankings (behind Kohli and Rohit). Part of that improvement is down to experience, he says.

"You play a couple of hundred games, you've worked out your game a little bit. I find that I don't over-complicate things too much. I just try to relax before I go out to bat and just try to sum up the situation as soon as possible and as quick as possible once I get out there. Maybe in the past you have a pre-conceived idea on how the wicket's going to play, or how you should play once you're out there. And then you get out there and it's totally different."

This can only part of the story, however, because while experience might lead a player to gradual progress, Taylor's leap towards the stratosphere demands a more immediate cause. Around 2010, Taylor had become aware that there was a growth in his left eye - called a pterygium - but it was not until late 2015 that he paid it much heed. Immediately after having an optometrist inspect it, and picking up prescription eye drops, Taylor struck 290 in a Test in Perth. The previous week, in Brisbane, he said he "couldn't really see the ball", and had picked up scores of 0 and 26.

After managing the pterygium for a year, Taylor finally had it surgically removed at the end of 2016, and his ODI form has been exceptional ever since. He has averaged 60.50 and 91.28 across the past two calendar years. He had also averaged 81.6 across five Tests in the year after having the growth removed, even if he would go on to have a more modest 2018.

"The eye operation's probably played a bit of a part in reading spinners out of the hand," Taylor says. "I was never a fan of day-night games before that. I hated batting under lights. I always found spinners and people who bowled change of pace quite hard to pick up because of my eye. Since then I've been able to see it.

"Two weeks after the operation, I had throwdowns with the trainer, and I saw the ball swing from the hand. I thought: 'Geez, I haven't been able to see that for a while!' I don't know when I started not seeing the ball as well as I used to. All I do know is that felt I was always playing very late at the start of my innings. I just felt like I was a nervous starter anyway, but I felt like I was lining the ball up and just missing. It's a strange feeling as a batsman - when you're in good positions and you end up not hitting the ball. I probably should have had the operation years ago."

Taylor's point about picking spinners is illustrated beautifully by the data. Although he had played spin relatively well in the four years leading up to the operation, his average against spin has skyrocketed to 112. His average against wristspinners, who tend to be particularly hard to pick, has gone up by over 70% post-surgery. In comparison, his average against seamers has only slightly improved, which means that the majority of Taylor's ODI advances over the past few years, have been against spin - something he faces plenty of, in the middle overs, batting at No. 4.

In addition to merely seeing the ball better, Taylor has also re-cast himself as a different sort of ODI batsman. Once renowned for his bruising hits to midwicket, and his punishing cuts, Taylor has substantially reined in his boundary-hitting over the past few years, focusing instead on accumulation. Where in the first half of his career - until the end of 2012 - Taylor had scored 48.24% of his runs via boundaries, he has scored only 38.53% of his runs via boundaries since the last World Cup. This has suited his team, and the new ODI landscape nicely. With batsmen generally better able to score rapidly at the end of an innings - thanks to the two new balls staying harder and easier to hit - New Zealand have often sought to conserve wickets through the middle overs, in order to explode more spectacularly at the death.

"Trying to get to that 40-over mark is one of the most important parts of your job," he says. "If you're scoring boundaries it's either a result of poor bowling or you're taking a risk. If we want wickets in hand you're better off not taking those risks."

What's most impressive about Taylor's transformation into an accumulator, is that he has not only become a more reliable batsman, he has actually increased his strike rate slightly while doing so. Globally, strike rates have also climbed, of course, but Taylor's new consistency has certainly not come at the expense of moving the scoreboard along. In fact, since the start of 2018, no batsman has a lower dot ball percentage than Taylor.

"There are areas I've been thinking about over the last little while: rotating the strike, dabs down to third man, soft hands and a lot of the touch shots probably come into my game a little bit more now than they used to," he says. "I play spin a little bit differently as well. At the start of my career I used my feet a little bit more to spin. Now, I back myself to use the depth of the crease."

If there is one weakness in Taylor's ODI batting at present, it's his scoring rate in the final 10 overs of an ODI innings. Where the likes Kohli, Rohit, Faf du Plessis, Steven Smith, Eoin Morgan and Jos Buttler all have strike rates of over 140 through that period (Rohit's is a stunning 199), Taylor goes at only 131. But this is nitpicking. And that stat only stands out, because by many other measures, Taylor is second only to Kohli as planet cricket heads into a World Cup year.

Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. @afidelf