Tuesday, 24 November 2015

James Taylor: The Start of a Dynamic Era for English Cricket

by Monideep Ghosh

(source: Wiki Commons)
In current modern times in the ever changing sport of cricket, pulverising the opposition ranks with a volley of fiery strokes has become the template for a batsman to taste success in the abridged versions of the game. However, England's James Taylor is a bit of an obscure candidate. Taylor is not the kind of batsman who launches a series of good length deliveries sailing several metres into the stands like compatriots most notably Jos Buttler. His method is a throwback to an era gone by - placidity, rotating-strike and nimble footwork to counter the spinners and pace bowlers alike. In the shifting sands of UAE, Taylor used this tried and tested method to glue England's batting line-up. The likes of Jason Roy, Alex Hales, Eoin Morgan and, more recently, Jos Buttler have piled on the runs at a breathtaking pace. But with Joe Root not exactly hitting top form in the first three One-Day Internationals against Pakistan, the batting line-up still appeared slightly creaky. It was Taylor, who held the innings together.

Taylor was calmness personified at the crease. In fact, both his fifties in the series came when the tourists found themselves in precarious positions. In particular, his match-turning half-century in the third ODI underpins Taylor's fluid run-making ability and to not let pressure get the better of him. On a track that was assisting the spinners, he combined selective power and steadfast defence to essay a knock of adroitness and deliberation. When Pakistan's spinners exposed Hales and Morgan's weakness against spin and winkled them out, England seemed to be slipping towards a defeat.

Taylor, though, put on a workshop to showcase how the spinners can be tackled. He mainly camped on the back foot and brought out his delectable wrists to pepper the field on both sides of the wicket. When he pressed forward, he did so with decisiveness. When Malik tried to beat him with flight, Taylor larruped the spinner dispassionately over the mid-wicket fence. He and Jos Buttler then combined to pick apart the Pakistani bowlers, as the visitors coasted towards the target. In the recent past, Taylor has shown unwavering self-belief to give a fitting riposte to his critics. Taylor's detractors, including myself, questioned his tendency to close the bat face too early. There was even a claim that he was too short to be rewarded with higher honours of being picked for Test cricket.

However, whether in the final Test of the three-match series against Pakistan in Sharjah or the ODIs that followed, Taylor batted without fear. It is always intriguing to note that when you play without the fear of failure, there doesn't seem to be anything wrong with your game. Taylor is a street-smart cricketer who has toiled hard to broaden his game. Him loosening his bottom-handed grip while attempting to drive through the cover-region amply illustrates that point. On occasions, the wrists and the leading elbow still seem to collapse while attempting a drive, but that Taylor is willing to learn and adapt should help him overcome the technical glitch.

Peter Moores, who is well-known for his hands-on coaching approach with the younger players, has spent a lot of time with Taylor, both as the coach of England and now in his new role as the consultant of Nottinghamshire. Even through his formative years, he showed single-minded focus to succeed, and, in 2009, became the youngest cricketer from Leicestershire to notch up 1,000 First-Class runs in a season. He was just 19 then. Having moved over to Nottinghamshire in 2012, Taylor continues to be the mainstay of his side. Taylor has had a stop-start career at the highest level. He has played a mere three Tests and 27 ODIs as of now. But, with consistent performances in the international arena, Taylor has undoubtedly put his hand up to bring stability to a line-up consisting mainly of dashers and bashers.

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