The Wellington Test against India, which begins on February 21, is set to be Ross Taylor‘s 100th. Only three other New Zealanders – Daniel Vettori, Stephen Fleming and Brendon McCullum – have reached that landmark. And when he does reach that hundred, Taylor will become the first cricketer from anywhere to have got to the milestone in all three international formats. A week before the landmark Test, Taylor spoke to the media at Seddon Park (with Virat Kohli batting in the nets a few meters away) and looked back at his long and fulfilling career.
100 Tests, 100 internationals in all formats. Did you expect to get there?
No. I think after my first Test series against South Africa, I didn’t know if I would play Test cricket again. Probably lucky with the timing of things, Twenty20 cricket came along in 2005, and I made my debut in 2006. So it’s probably a timing issue to be able to get there but it’s nice, hopefully to be the first player to do it, and hopefully with time, there’s going to be a lot more players around the world… I’m sure the guy behind me [Kohli batting in the nets] is going to be there and he could play 200 of all of them. We will just have to wait and see.
When did you start believing you can have a long Test career?
It was probably here [in Hamilton]. So I played that first series against South Africa, got dropped for Bangladesh, two Tests at home, and then I played my first Test at home against England and I got a hundred in that first Test. That’s probably the first time I think I believed that I could play at this level. Probably fortunate throughout my whole career – that was my third Test, to get a hundred. And then in my one-day career, I was able to get a hundred in my third game as well. To get those milestones early on definitely helped to believe that I belong and that I’m good enough to play at this level.
What does it tell you about yourself, playing 100 Tests?
Probably getting older! But no, I think I’ve been happy with what I have achieved to date. Test cricket and cricket in general as a batter, you go through a lot of ups and downs and that’s definitely what I’ve been through, and as a team as well. But Wellington holds a special place in my heart and I’m sure, having a lot of family and friends there, it will be something that I’ll be proud of and look back on at the end of my career with fond memories.
Might emotions play a distracting role?
I guess at the end of the day, it’s another game of cricket and you want to try and contribute in any way that’s possible. But at the same time, you’ve got to enjoy it for what it is, and I’m sure once you get into the game, you can enjoy it and just play cricket like you want to. Wellington can do a little bit early on, so I’m sure, batting or bowling, it’s going to be an interesting contest.
We saw your family sitting on the grass banks in one of the T20Is or one-dayers. Playing so long, how influential has the support of your family been?
Having three beautiful kids and a wife to look after them, you spend a lot of time on the road, so having their support – it’s not easy on my wife Victoria to raise three kids for as long as she has. We play a lot but that’s probably why when you do play at home, it’s nice to be a dad and it’s nice for them – Jonty and Mackenzie – to be old enough to sort of understand what dad does. Jonty was falling asleep; he is the master of dragging out the bedtime and wanting extra stories. So obviously that game was a bit later than what he’s used to but no, they’ve definitely been a help and just balancing out cricket can be tough at times, as I said before, but to know that you have your family there, regardless of whether you score runs or not, they give dad a hug whether he’s scored a hundred or a duck as well. They put everything into perspective and hopefully when they’re bit older than they are now, they will be proud of what I’ve achieved as a cricketer for them.
Any particular moment when you’ve come back home after a bad day, and told yourself, I’m glad I’ve got this, and cricket’s always there?
I think there’s been a lot of moments where, with all of them, Mackenzie and Jonty I can remember both, they were born and I left four or five days later to go on a tour or go on a Test, that was quite tough. But in saying that, if you ask all the players who are parents and the wives, it is tough and we all deal with it in different ways. But I think anytime, when you go and pick them up from school in between games or something and they run across to you and give you a big hug, that’s pretty special in itself and brings you back to what really cricket is. It’s just a game and sometimes we probably make more out of it that it is.
You had a pretty serious eye condition, and you went through a rough patch of form, but since having surgery and coming back you’ve almost had a second wind. Have you been enjoying your cricket a lot more?
I’ve always enjoyed cricket. It was probably two or three years, such a gradual process that it deteriorated and I didn’t know what it really was. Once I had the operation, you could see the ball clearer than what you used to, you start wondering whether you should have got the eye operation a lot earlier and whatnot. Definitely I think the runs that I’ve scored since then have shown that I probably should have got it a lot earlier. But things happen for a reason and I’ve been happy with my form and things ever since.
Anyone who has had such a long career must have made a lot of sacrifices. Do you look at it like that?
I think I’m doing something that I’ve always wanted to do. I wanted to play for New Zealand and be as great a player as I could be. If anything, I think the family has probably sacrificed a little bit more than I have. To not have dad home as often as maybe someone else. But at the same time, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed playing for my country and representing them to the best of my ability. Whenever I do retire, then hopefully I can make up for all the lost time over there. But at the same time, my kids have been able to travel to some amazing places, my daughter raves on about going to India four or five times in her life. You learn a lot in the classroom but you also learn a lot about life, by being able to travel and experience different cultures. I’m sure my son and daughters will be better people for the experiences we’ve been able to give them over the years.
Of all the innings you’ve played in Tests, can you name your top three?
Can I say four? I think one of my best hundreds was at Manchester, I think 158 [154 not out]? We ended up losing that Test, but I think [it was one of my better innings]. 140 and 70 [142 and 74] when we won the game in Colombo, after the captaincy issue, that would have to be right up there. 290 at Perth, once again it was a draw, but it’s not often you get to 200 and your job’s not done, to try and save a match or get us into a winning position. Probably one of my favourite but underrated innings was a hundred at Dubai, I think we were about to – we probably would have lost the Test – but I came out and we got ourselves in a position to win the Test. We didn’t win it, but that would definitely be up there with one of my best hundreds.