Updated: June 24, 2021 10:43:02 am
When Luteru Ross Poutoa Lote Taylor clubbed a four through the leg side to win the World Test Championship final against India in the final session on Wednesday, he was ending 21 years of heartache for the Kiwis. It was the first time New Zealand were winning a major ICC title since the 2000 ICC Knockout Trophy, when Stephen Fleming had led them to their only world title.
For the man who hit the winning runs, who said he would be known as Luteru Taylor instead of Ross Taylor “if he was a kid growing up in New Zealand now” in an interview last month, the redemption would have been especially sweet.
“This has to be the highlight of my career, to be world champions,” Taylor said at the end of the match. When New Zealand lost the 2019 World Cup final, the 37-year-old Taylor had thought he missed his last chance at winning a major final.
Ross Taylor in Tears pic.twitter.com/aOJD054GqA
— K I R A N 🇮🇳 (@Kiran_reddy_k) June 23, 2021
“If we had won that game, I might have retired after that, so I’m glad that I didn’t and that I’m here today,” he had said before the match.
Shutting the door on India
New Zealand had many heroes throughout the six days of the ‘Ultimate Test’, but their biggest hero in the fourth innings was probably Taylor — the highest international run-getter for the Kiwis — who shut the door on India in the last session.
Ravichandran Ashwin seemed to give India a window into the Test with the wickets of openers Tom Latham and Devon Conway. When Taylor joined Kane Williamson in the middle, the momentum was swinging towards India for the first time in the day.
The pressure mounted as the Indian section of the crowd found their voice. No run came off the bat for 9.1 overs, till Taylor finally took a single in the 54th over. The required run rate crept up above 3 for the first time. In the commentary box, Sunil Gavaskar started to ‘sledge’ Simon Doull about hair.
Then came the flurry, as three boundaries in two overs — all from Taylor’s blade — brought down the required run rate to 2.7. When Cheteshwar Pujara dropped Taylor’s catch at slip a little later, the writing was on the wall.
How Luteru became Ross
“If I was a kid growing up now in New Zealand, I’d be Luteru Taylor instead of Ross Taylor,” Taylor said in an exclusive interview with Wisden Cricket Monthly last month.
“On my first day of school my mother and grandma took me along to enrol. The principal, this old guy, couldn’t get his tongue around my name. I guess there weren’t too many Polynesian kids in Masterton in those days,” Taylor had said in an ESPN Cricket Monthly interview in 2017.
“In this day and age I’d be called Luteru and there’d be no problem. After a while they gave up and said, ‘Just call him Ross.’ I’ve been called Ross ever since,” he had said.
Taylor is only the second Test player after Murphy Su’a, who played 13 Tests in the mid ’90s, to hail from Samoa, the island on the Pacific Ocean. The Polynesian islands, while having ample representation in rugby, have not broken through New Zealand cricket much.
The power in having Luteru Taylor instead Ross Taylor as the leading run scorer of all time needs to be embraced. As a kid with a hard name it makes me so sad when our education system has literally denied our communities their ancestoral links by renaming us. https://t.co/zQbhiNWddu
— Sereana Naepi (@SereanaNaepi) June 22, 2021
Taylor’s heritage might not have been as well represented in international cricket as it could have, but the records he will leave behind are without question. The highest Test and ODI run-getter for New Zealand, he reached 18000 runs in international cricket in the WTC final. He also went past Mark Taylor into the list of top 10 Test catchers with his 158th catch.
“I never thought I’d get another opportunity to play in a Final. It’s nice to be here and have another chance to create some history.”@BLACKCAPS icon Ross Taylor reflects on a career for the ages and what is still to come.#INDvNZ #WTC21 pic.twitter.com/y7ZmlZuwIP
— ICC (@ICC) June 20, 2021
On what the future might hold for New Zealand’s Samoan cricket legend, commentator Simon Doull offered on air: “He’s still got the hunger. He’s not been in New Zealand’s T20 mix of late. He could want to play a last summer of Tests at home.”
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