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England v New Zealand

The eye problem that prevented Ross Taylor from reading swing ‘for two or three years’

Taylor eye
by Wisden Staff 3 minute read

New Zealand’s leading run-getter in Test cricket, Ross Taylor has been prolific in the second half of his career, despite having had to battle an eye problem that seriously hindered his batting abilities at one point.

On the opening day of the ongoing Lord’s Test between England and New Zealand, Taylor was seen gesturing to the team staff for eye drops while batting against England’s all-seam attack. In late-2016, Taylor underwent eye surgery to remove a pterygium, a tissue growth in his cornea, which had affected his vision while batting.

In 2018, Taylor admitted that he had had issues seeing the ball in day/night ODI and that he was not able to read swing for “two to three years”.

“It’s nice to see the ball swing and during day-night games, not to fear,” Taylor had said. “A lot of times in day-night games you didn’t want to the ball to come near you in the field and that’s not a great place to be when you are playing cricket. In hindsight, it would have been nice to have the operation two or three years earlier. At the same time, has it made a big difference? It’s hard to tell, you are older and wiser as well which makes a difference.

“Seeing the ball swing from the hand, I hadn’t been able to see that for two or three years. But you are still human, get good balls and play poor shots so hopefully, I can eliminate that as well.”

Soon after, Taylor became a dominant force in both Tests and ODIs: in 2017, he averaged 81.60 in the longer format, while averaging 60.50 in one-dayers.

On Wednesday, the 37-year-old’s signal for eye drops restarted the discussion on his eye issue, with commentators Simon Doull and Mike Atherton speaking about it on air.

“He was really struggling to pick the ball up,” Doull said, talking about the phase when Taylor had to deal with the tissue growth, “and was always blinking, squinting, asking for eye drops. Post-operation, for about 18 months, three years, he was phenomenal. It fixed the issue.”

As Taylor found it difficult to get going against the seamers in the second session, playing and missing a few, the two commentators noted how vision invariably declines with age. Atherton took the example of a few exceptions such as Graham Gooch, whose career extended into his 40s, also mentioning 45-year-old Darren Stevens who continues to be prolific in county cricket. “Generally, a batsman’s best years are not coming after 33-34-35, you don’t sense improvement generally after that kind of age,” he said.

Doull also noted that the batsman had been “a little bit behind his career average” against the genuine quicks. Taylor faced 38 deliveries for his 14 before he was dismissed by debutant Ollie Robinson.

With his eye problems well in the past, Taylor would be looking to make the most of the remaining England tour, his fourth visit to the country with the Test team.

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