WELLINGTON Ross Taylor's return to New Zealand's test side following eye surgery has provided an interesting subtext for their two-match series against Bangladesh that starts on Thursday as he seeks to surpass former mentor Martin Crowe.
Taylor underwent an operation to remove a pterygium, or growth, on his left eye that had affected his vision following New Zealand's series-clinching 138-run victory over Pakistan in Hamilton last November.
The 32-year-old scored 102 not out in that match, a 16th test century that moved him to within one of the New Zealand record held by Crowe, who died last year from cancer.
The right-handed batsman has scored 82 not out and 80 in New Zealand's domestic Twenty20 competition since his return and is relishing his return to the international game.
"When Hogan (Crowe) gave me some of the records he wanted me to break, it was more of a motivation in the background," Taylor told reporters. "Sometimes you play cricket and just meander along. That's when the goals come into it.
"At the moment, I'm pretty happy with where my game's at and if I can get myself in and play well, if the hundred comes it comes and if not I'll continue to try and be as consistent as possible."
Bangladesh enter the test series having had their confidence from a first ever test victory over England at Mirpur in October dented after they were swept 3-0 in both the one-day and Twenty20 series.
There are also questions over their mental toughness.
Several times during the limited overs portions of the tour they had put themselves into positions to win for the first time in New Zealand but wasted the opportunities when the pressure was put on by the home side.
"Certainly throughout the white ball format, Bangladesh put us under pressure in every game," captain Kane Williamson told reporters on Wednesday. "We're certainly expecting that again.
"They're an experienced side, have played all round the world, we know will provide a stiff challenge so it's important we are looking to hit our straps early."
The visitors have virtually the same batting line-up available for the test series, though it has been strengthened by the return of captain and wicketkeeper Mushfiqur Rahim, who suffered a hamstring injury in the first one-day international.
Their pace bowling, however, is extremely inexperienced with Rubel Hossain the senior bowler with just 23 tests, and 32 wickets at 75.90, under his belt, though the attack is likely to be led by the 21-year-old Taskin Ahmed on debut.
Left armer Mustafizur Rahman has also been rested for at least the first test after he made his return to international cricket during the limited overs series after five months out as he recovered from shoulder surgery.
(Editing by John O'Brien)