As a surgical procedure it might not have been as complex as the rebuilding of Steve Austin, but the operation to remove a growth from Ross Taylor's eye has been worth millions to the Black Caps.

Taylor's renaissance continues apace, even as his 34th birthday looms large on the calendar.

His 113 against England at his favourite hunting ground, Seddon Park, followed by the astonishing 181* in Dunedin, further evidence that Taylor has never played better.

In late 2016 the right-hander had an operation to remove a pterygium –a benign growth – from his left eye. It followed the most inconsistent period of his career. Since the beginning of 2017, however, Taylor's form has been, well, eye-opening.


In tests he has amassed 408 runs at a silly average of 81.6, more than 30 runs higher than his career average of 48. Add to that, his strike rate has jumped from to 63.2 in that period, four points higher than his career rate, suggesting he is playing not only better, but more positively.

The cynical could point to the fact it is a relatively small sample size. Like all of New Zealand's best test players, Taylor is being handicapped by a bleak couple of years of scheduling, but he's had plenty of short-format cricket to reinforce the notion that he's never been better.

Since the operation, Taylor has scored 1441 ODI runs. He's averaged 65.5 and notched seven 50s and four centuries.

Again, in the key numbers he is tracking ahead of career rates. His average in this period is 19 runs higher than his career, and his strike rate is marginally better than his career rate.

Batting in the middle order in T20Is is one of cricket's most thankless, soul-sapping tasks and average comes a distant second statistical relevance to strike rate, but it is worth noting that in Taylor's clear-eyed revival, he averages 39.75 14 runs higher than his career mark. That figure is bolstered by a number of unbeaten, late-innings cameos, but more importantly he's lifted his strike rate to 129.26 (career strike rate 121.04).

A harsh critic might point out that even this strike rate is a bit watery by modern standards but, undeniably, it shows he is trending in the right direction.

26 Feb, 2018 1:29pm
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Taylor's star has fallen in the shortest format since 2011, when his trademark slap-slog over midwicket attracted a US$1m bid from Royal Challengers Bangalore. Now he is without an IPL gig. Only recently, he endured a 19-month exile from the national T20 side, a snub that only highlighted the paucity of depth in New Zealand's middle-order stocks.

Blackcaps batsman Ross Taylor walks back after scoring 93 runs during Day 2 of the First Test Match between Black Caps v West Indies, Saturday 2nd December 2017. Photo /
Blackcaps batsman Ross Taylor walks back after scoring 93 runs during Day 2 of the First Test Match between Black Caps v West Indies, Saturday 2nd December 2017. Photo /

Taylor might sit some way below the T20 elite, but he has shown enough to suggest he could curate a decent retirement nest egg when his international days end. That, he indicated, could come as soon as mid-2019, at the conclusion of the Cricket World Cup in England.

By that time Taylor will be 35, which is not particularly old by today's standards. There is a crispness to Taylor's batting these days that fans feared they might not see again.

He has 36 international centuries – easily the most by a New Zealander, Nathan Astle and Kane Williamson have 27 – and on that measure alone is joining the ranks of the all-time greats. It no longer seems outrageous to suggest the twilight of Taylor's career could last another four or five years.

He's just got his eye in again.