Mark Taylor, who played his last Test match in January 1999, exemplified the game’s most basic motif – selflessness in the light of having almost reached the highest level of individual achievement, like no other leader in contemporary sport.
Flashback. The genteel manner in which he ‘gyrated’ from his ‘chase’ of Brian Lara’s Everest-like Test record, at that point, so that his team could, perforce, turn the screws on Pakistan, was a case in point. It’s also a fine testimony to his ideals, and great qualities, not just as one of his country’s best captains ever, but as a fine human being as well. In the present dispensation, where the pristine purity, sanctity, and spirit of sport are being denigrated by baser elements, all we can say is – may his tribe increase.
Taylor’s mammoth 334* – followed by a near-100 essay – one that consummated a close second to Graham Gooch’s all-time record – did not come easily. It was hard-earned, and doggedly worked for, every inch of the way, with a rare component of assiduity and purpose. For a man who was written off by critics – well, can’t blame them; they were only doing their job – as a has-been just a year-and-a-half before, Taylor’s finest hour did not arrive a moment late. It evolved like the blooming rose – with the nature, or nurture, of cricket at its best.
That Taylor joined the greatest of his countrymen, Sir Don Bradman, as the highest scoring Aussie, in a Test innings, at that point again, was a signal honour. It’s also an assured summit the southpaw with the chubby, charming face, is sure to cherish all his life: one that bids fair to yet another resourceful fact of life, a template of conviction. Don’t you ever, or never-ever-give-up-sort of frame of mind; or, a theme song that is just as famous. He who waits never fails.
That Taylor, a marvel of a slip-fieldsman, went through 20 Test innings without a half-century against his name, before he played a masterful three-figure innings in England, at one point, was not really the stuff that would have made one sit up in ecstasy. It was, indeed, the worst ever ‘run’ for an Aussie skipper. No wonder everybody that mattered wanted him sacked. But, there were a few cricket aficionados who stood by him too – through thick and thin.
That their faith paid off handsomely vis-Ã -vis what it needs to measure a player of known quality – a fine opening batsman and captain of one of the best Aussie Test sides ever – is a classical example of managerial uprightness. More than that, it also has to it an element of history. Taylor was the first Aussie skipper who created a drummer of his own: a grand Test series victory, and the first of its kind in the subcontinent, during the last several years.
Taylor was a gutsy left-hander. He had all the attributes of a sound batsman: a good range of strokes, the ability to spot the ball quickly, a fine symmetry of mind-body correlation, technique and execution of shots all round the wicket. He’s sometimes a dapper; sometimes a breezy scorer, more so when the occasion demanded. What made him a player of substance on his own steam was his celebrated grit, or tenacity, and durability, as a clear-headed thinker, in any given situation, howsoever complex, or subtle.
Taylor was not certainly a Lara with the bat, all right. But, he’s one who believed in placing his best foot forward always, irrespective of what the outcome would be.
A world-class player, and a classy commentator, who believed in the laws of the cosmos, Taylor is a cricketing guru – a skipper who handled every pressure on the field and outside of it with a great sense of equanimity and poise.
He’s a man who believed in himself; a captain who brought respectability to the game… more so, in a world that is increasingly going mad.
– Photo, Courtesy: ABC Sport