Steven Taylor wields his bat like the hammer of Thor. Each swing begins with a minimum of fuss but upon striking the ball ends with a maximum of fury.
By Peter Della Penna
DreamCricket.com is wrapping up the year in United States Cricket by recognizing USA’s standout performers at the international level. The 2011 New Inning Foundation Cricketer of the Year is Steven Taylor.
The 18-year-old, American-born Taylor is one of the most promising talents across the American cricket landscape. This year was not about potential for him. Rather, he rose to the occasion by turning in top notch performances numerous times, usually in spectacular fashion. He finished 2011 with 651 runs in 18 innings for the USA U-19 team at an average of 43.40 including two half-centuries and two centuries. However, his special year came very close to not happening at all.
Almost a year ago to the day, Taylor was supposed to be on his way to Los Angeles to represent the South East Region U-19 team at the 2010 USACA Junior Nationals. Along with several of his teammates, Taylor’s connecting flight to Philadelphia from Fort Lauderdale was canceled due to a blizzard that blanketed the east coast beginning on Christmas night. On the ride back from the airport in Fort Lauderdale, the car Taylor was a passenger in along with two other teammates – Ryan Ramnarine and Zachary Sattaur – was involved in a serious accident.
Sattaur had a broken bone which caused pressure on his spine while Ramnarine had a gash on his hand that required stitches. Ramnarine’s sister, Neisha, had multiple fractures and was placed in the Intensive Care Unit. Ramnarine’s father, Wayne, and Taylor were the only two to come away from the wreck relatively unscathed with just minor scrapes and bruises.
Image (right) - Steven Taylor was fortunate to walk away from the scene of this car wreck in December 2010. [Courtesy: Wayne Ramnarine]
Just six weeks later, Taylor suited up for USA’s U-19 squad in Florida at the ICC Americas U-19 Division One tournament. While it was clear that Taylor was physically 100%, no one knew whether or not the accident had left any mental scars. If it did, he certainly didn’t show it. In his first match of the tournament, Taylor was focused only on blitzing the Argentina bowling unit to the tune of 83 runs off 59 deliveries including eight fours and four sixes. From there, Taylor’s year only got more impressive.
At the ICC U-19 World Cup Qualifier in Ireland, Taylor put the team on his back and nearly led USA to a berth at the 2012 ICC U-19 World Cup in Australia. In the team’s second match against Papua New Guinea, USA fell short by six runs but they wouldn’t have gotten anywhere near the target of 263 were it not for Taylor’s pyrotechnic batting display. He set a USA U-19 record by scoring 140 off 120 balls which included 19 fours and three sixes. The next best contribution in USA’s innings was produced by extras with 25. Taylor was named Man of the Match despite being on the losing side. Afterwards, the opposition heaped praise on Taylor.
“Let’s not forget Steven Taylor’s innings, amazing innings really,” said Andy Bichel, PNG’s head coach at the time who is now a member of Australia’s national selection panel. “He hit the ball with power. I think he’s still only 17 so he’s got a bright future if he can keep everything together but he’s got the right things about his game at the moment and who knows down the track where he could end up if he does so.”
Image (above) - Steven Taylor raises his bat after reaching 100 against Papua New Guinea at the 2011 ICC U-19 World Cup Qualifier in Dublin. [Courtesy: Peter Della Penna/DreamCricket.com]
Watching Taylor stand at the crease, it is hard to believe he is still only a teenager. His physical gifts have always enabled him to play with people several years older than him. This year, he showed greater hunger and maturity to stay at the crease and put an increased value on his wicket. He has the natural athleticism to bowl pace or spin with equal success and his wicketkeeping shows gradual improvement.
However, 2011 showed that regardless of the other skills he is capable of developing, Taylor’s pedigree as an explosive batsman is nonpareil at the junior level in Associate cricket. At the ICC U-19 World Cup Qualifier, Taylor finished tied for second with 455 runs in nine games, but his 13 sixes were the most of any player in the tournament, as were his 60 boundaries.
Taylor wields his bat like the hammer of Thor. Each swing begins with a minimum of fuss but upon striking the ball ends with a maximum of fury. In the US cricket scene, perhaps the only player who turns in more devastating batting performances against his peers is Sushil Nadkarni. Taylor made his debut with the USA senior side in Florida against Jamaica in May of 2010 before touring with them to Italy later that summer. Hopefully, Taylor might get a chance in 2012 to rejoin Nadkarni at the senior level and form a tag team of terror for USA at the ICC World Twenty20 Qualifier in the UAE. Of all players at all levels for USA in 2010, Taylor was most exceptional. The future may be most extraordinary.
Congratulations to Steven Taylor on being named the 2011 New Inning Foundation Cricketer of the Year. He succeeds Aditya Thyagarajan, who like Taylor also claimed the honor for Batsman of the Year in addition to Cricketer of the Year in 2010. In recognition of his achievement, Taylor will receive a plaque as well as a $250 gift certificate sponsored by the New Inning Foundation and DreamCricket.com.