MARK Taylor made a statement recently that he was proud to have more losses than draws under his belt as skipper and no drawn series at all. I wonder how that statement would sit now, considering the way he ensured that the final Test against Pakistan would be condemned to a draw.
As a cricket watcher, what does concern me is the fact that Australia batted on long beyond what was necessary in its second innings. Taylor ensured that the final day was an exercise in futility -- remember just one team has scored over 400 in a single day in the fourth innings to win a Test. And one is not asking for a declaration of the sort Sir Gary Sobers made in 1968 against England.
Taylor had been increasingly anxious to win the series against Pakistan. Nine series wins have given him a good reputation as a team leader and only India, at home, has proved unconquerable. He hasn't had the chance to lead against India in Australia and has not tilted against Zimbabwe. But all other teams have been taken on and conquered in the longer version of the game, some both at home and away.
The win has ended a 39-year drought for Australia in Pakistan. Doubtless, that is important. Yet, had Taylor given Pakistan a sporting target and ensured that some interest remained in the match, I feel he would have served the cause of Test cricket much better. Nationalism has its plus points but the game is much bigger than any other factor.
To my mind, the prime factor responsible for what I characterise as his most unTaylor-like actions, is the increasing speculation about his term as captain. It's a pity that he remains insecure about his future as captain beyond the Ashes series, especially after his drought with the bat ended. Some commentators in Australia have openly been saying that at this time next year, Taylor will probably not be skipper anymore and such statements do not help to make a man feel secure.
When the Australian board decided to have separate captains for the Test and one-day teams, Taylor made a gambit to try and retain both posts but failed. His objective was probably to try and play in the World Cup next year; at that point, he had no claims to be in the team as a batsman.
It is a measure of the Australian board's expertise (or lack of it) that their doings have made a man who is probably one of the three best captains in the country's history feel so insecure. He is 34 and has at least a couple more years of good international cricket left in him. Remember that Lloyd went on till 40, and so did Viv Richards. And they didn't play a lot less games than Taylor is doing now.
Taylor could well have called the team in soon after Mark Waugh reached his hundred and the lead was around 375, giving Pakistan nine or 10 overs in the fading light. One hundred overs and an asking rate of 3.75 per over would have been a tough target. But the home team would then have had a goal which was difficult to reach but one which was tempting enough to go for -- a drawn series would have been sufficient incentive. The last day would have been a cracker. In fact, Australia may well have now been rejoicing over a resounding 2-0 series win. But no, that was not to be. Test cricket has once again been sold down the drain. Did someone, somewhere question why crowds don't flock to watch Test cricket any longer?