This February Ross Taylor became the first New Zealand men's player to feature in 100 T20Is. Taylor celebrated the occasion with a half-century, studded by three successive signature hockey-swiped boundaries in a 34-run over off India allrounder Shivam Dube at the Bay Oval.
Taylor floated in the middle order at No.5 or No.6 in New Zealand's most recent T20I series at home against India, and struck 166 runs in five innings at an average of 41.50 and strike rate of 131.74. He will be 37 when the T20 World Cup, which has now been pushed back to 2021 in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, gets underway. So, does he see himself making that World Cup next year?
"Oh! Not sure," Taylor told ESPNcricinfo in a video interview from Trinidad where he will be based for a month to play in the CPL 2020, playing for Guyana Amazon Warriors. "As you get older, things slow down a little bit, but your training and experience and your mind become even more important."
There had been questions over Taylor's T20I future after the previous T20 World Cup as well, in 2016, when he managed only 91 runs in five innings. In 2017, then-coach Mike Hesson explained that players on the fringe were putting too much pressure on Taylor.
Coming into the CPL, Taylor reckoned all players involved would face a sense of unease, having not played competitive cricket for a long time. Taylor had last played competitive cricket in March 2020, when New Zealand faced Australia in a closed-door ODI in Sydney before the rest of that tour was called off. Last month, Taylor was part of New Zealand training camp at the Bay Oval before heading to link up with five-time finalists Warriors.
"Yeah, it has been a strange time all around," he said. I haven't gone this long without playing any cricket since I was in high school. So, yeah obviously isolation and all those other things are a little bit strange, but it is what it is.
"You know it's going to be strange for everybody at the CPL. Nobody has played international cricket for a while, so everyone is going to be nervous, I'm sure. So, the training and early games are very important. The atmosphere in Twenty20 cricket is a lot of what you play and we get the best crowds in that format. So, to play in front of nobody but knowing that people at home will be watching and cheering us on, it's going to be a bit strange, but at the same time something that we're going to get used to."
Taylor is expected to fill the void created by the withdrawal of CPL veteran Shoaib Malik, who is currently on tour with Pakistan in the UK. With last season's breakout star Brandon King at the top, followed by the power-hitting pair of Nicholas Pooran and Shimron Hetmyer in the middle order, Taylor said that his role this season would be to draw on his experience and anchor the innings.
"Shoaib Malik has got a fantastic record, especially in Twenty20 [cricket] and especially for Guyana as well," Taylor said. "I think he has got that anchor role - and a role that I'll be looking to do as well. Hetmyer and Pooran… I've played with him [Pooran] before; they are not just exciting players in West Indies cricket, but in the world as well. I'm looking forward to see how they go and grow. It's an exciting team to play for and every time I played against Guyana in the past, they've always been tough competitors."
'Expect spin to play a big part'
With CPL 2020 set to be played in just two venues in Trinidad & Tobago, the pitches are likely to deteriorate faster than usual. As a result, nearly all sides have packed their sides with spinners and slower-ball specialists. Taylor admitted that tackling spin could have a major impact on the tournament.
"Every team is stacked with quality spinners and we expect spin to play a big part and probably reverse-swing throughout the whole tournament," he said. "Traditionally, it does spin a lot here anyway, so the way you play spin is going to be very important. Some of the world's best spinners are here, and it's going to be a good test for us batsmen going forward.
"You've just got to adjust as quickly as possible and adapt as quick as possible as well. I think regardless of whether you're playing on bouncy wickets or spin-friendly wickets, you got to adjust to what kind of total you're chasing or what you think is a par total is as well. So, hopefully the experience and reading the situation [helps] going forward, and also taking to your partner as much as possible and helping him out as well."