It must be tough being Mark ‘Tubby’ Taylor. By dint of the fact that he is neither Allan Border or Steve Waugh, his contribution as captain of the Australian Test team is often completely overlooked. He lacked the presence and aggression of either of the captains who immediately preceded and followed his reign, and his contribution with the bat was inconsistent, as equally capable of embarking on runs of form where he looked impossible to dismiss (see the 1989 Ashes tour) as he was of looking like a complete mug when he had a bat in his hand (see much of the rest of his career). Even his record number of Test catches (157) was quickly surpassed. If it wasn’t for his 334* on the highway at Peshawar, or the time he got miffed after being handed an extra wide bat by a wag during an Ashes tour, his career would appear to have been wholly unremarkable.
That is a slightly unfair reflection though on a man who was one of Australia’s most attacking Test captains. Beneath his affable, chubby exterior he was every bit as bold as any who have held the position. But be that as it may, it’s hard to take Taylor seriously. Largely because he just looks like he desperately wants to be everyone’s best mate.
Probably because of that reason Taylor occupies a similarly middle of the road position in the Channel Nine commentary box. We imagine that Nine’s commentators are split between the old hands on one side, ably led by Ian Chappell, and the upstart dickheads on the other, incompetently led by Ian Healy. Somewhere in the middle lies Taylor, keen to make sure everyone gets along and nobody is too mean to one another. In fact if it wasn’t for Taylor’s moderating influence we are sure Chappeli would have murdered Mark Nicholas live on air years ago.
Taylor’s not exactly controversy free in his own opinions. He has been a vocal critic against switch hitting for instance, which, considering one of its primary proponents is Channel Nine golden boy David Warner, is a dangerous stance to take. But most often he is at pains to offer a conciliatory position, heading off some of the more confrontational opinions of his colleagues. In a recent episode Taylor managed to achieve the feat of completely disagreeing with Healy’s criticism of Matthew Wade’s glovework, whilst also stating that he completely agreed with him.
As baffling as such a position might be, it’s largely swept aside owing to the fact that nobody really listens to, or cares about, what Tubby has to say anyway. He gives the impression of a door to door salesman, who you can’t quite bring yourself to be mean to because he looks so desperate and sincere.
We are, of course, being somewhat unfair to the man. Taylor has long held positions of authority within Australian cricket, both on the board of Cricket Australia and with New South Wales as well as with the ICC Cricket Committee. Clearly he has quite a lot to say that is of interest to those who administer the game. Indeed a future leadership position with either the ICC or Cricket Australia doesn’t look beyond him. But the moronic surroundings of the Channel Nine commentary box rob him of any such gravitas, and he instead devolves into little more than that fat bloke the rest of them feel safe in picking on. Or forcing to wear fancy dress for their own amusement.
If you were to take Taylor out of Channel Nine and place him in a more respectable environment he would probably shine as an insightful observer of the game. Yes, he talks too fast, but that’s probably only so he can finish before Healy jumps in all over him with some unfunny anecdote about the time he and Slats came back to the hotel, after a night on the tequila, with a bunch of ladyboys. Or something. If he were working for the ABC, or in the Sky box, he wouldn’t have to put up with such rubbish. At this stage the best he can hope for is the Australian cricket broadcasting rights going to someone other than Channel Nine in the next round of negotiations. Or otherwise he could soon be reduced to providing boundary line ‘colour’ updates during matches. Whilst wearing his wife’s wedding dress.