June 15, 2016

'The captaincy came a couple of years before I was ready'

Ross Taylor recalls his turbulent stint in charge of New Zealand, and talks of how he has changed as a player and person since
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WATCH - Taylor's masterful 87-ball century

"I enjoyed captaincy, it brought the best out of my game, but it's an unrewarding job," Ross Taylor says. "Heath Mills, from the New Zealand Players Association, always said it was unrewarding. He was right."

Taylor stops to gather his thoughts when I ask if leading New Zealand was a childhood dream. The few seconds of silence say it all.

He has never been one to hang about. His 81-ball century against Australia in 2010 was New Zealand's fastest ever in Tests. Just last year, he broke a 111-year record by scoring 290 against the Australians, the highest score by an overseas batsman in Tests in Australia. The innings was full of positivity and aggression, never shying away from a battle.

Talking about the captaincy, by contrast, Taylor is careful, tentative and hesitant. He is everything he is not on the cricket field - slow to pick his words on what is a difficult subject, but it's easy to see why.

In June 2011, he was handed the captaincy in all forms. It should have been a fairy tale, given his good batting form at the time, but 18 months later it was over. Coach Mike Hesson, following disappointing results in the limited-overs formats, wanted Taylor to relinquish the one-day captaincy. Ahead of a Test series against Sri Lanka, Hesson tried to tell Taylor exactly that.

He informed Taylor he would recommend leadership changes to the board after the tour. He meant in white-ball cricket, but he failed to convey that to Taylor. It ended in disaster. Taylor led New Zealand to their first away Test victory over Sri Lanka in over a dozen years, making 142 and 74 in the process.

"I guess yes and no, on it [captaincy] being a childhood dream," he says. "I always thought I could do it but it came a couple of years before I was ready. I was just getting into a bit of form and then had the added responsibility of being captain.

Ross Taylor's 290 against Australia at the WACA was full of positivity and aggression © Getty Images

"Until you do the job, you don't realise how much there is involved in it. Your brain is ticking the whole time. The only time you aren't thinking cricket is when you aren't playing. And with the amount of cricket being played now, that's not very often."

Taylor had had enough. He took a break from the game while New Zealand Cricket - then hit by a barrage of criticism from ex-players - apologised. Weeks later, he returned, but trust needed rebuilding and the relationship with Hesson needed repairing. Taylor admits that the turmoil affected him. Anyone would have been.

One particular Kevin Pietersen remark really struck a chord. "It has made me who I am today," Taylor says. "I don't think I'd be human if it didn't affect me in some sort of way.

"I watched KP do a documentary on ITV one time. They asked him if he regretted taking the captaincy, and he said you can never turn down the job. He's right."

In truth, the signals were there from the start. Taylor beat Brendon McCullum to the job after being interviewed by a three-man panel consisting of the coach then, John Wright, the director of cricket, John Buchanan, and the acting national selection manager Mark Greatbatch. It was like going back to school.

"I don't know many people who would have to interview to become the national team captain, so that was a strange thing to deal with. It was bizarre, very bizarre," Taylor recalls.

"It was an honour and a privilege to get the job but I really don't know how to describe it. I guess when I write my book I'll go into depth a bit more, but it was different. At least when I finish my cricket career I can say I've had one job interview!"

McCullum replaced Taylor in December 2012. The move worked. He revolutionised New Zealand cricket and left. Hesson was there every step of the way - and so was Taylor. Against the odds, both remain an integral part of the new era, still working together.

Taylor's 290 against Australia came just three Tests ago. He has hit three one-day international centuries in his last nine innings. He may be 32 but Taylor is seeing the ball as well as ever, and has rarely played better.

Taylor and Mike Hesson have put the past behind them and both remain an integral part of the new era © AFP

He knows it won't go on forever and laughs at the suggestion of playing into his forties: "Absolutely not! If I get to 37 or 38, I'll be happy. Forty-two or 44? No way." But for now he is relishing playing a key part in what could be one of the greatest New Zealand teams ever, under Kane Williamson.

"It has the potential to be the best New Zealand side." he says. "We've got quite a lot of young talent coming through and there are a couple of big Test series in the next couple of years. We're sixth in the Test rankings, so there's still a long way to go, but it's exciting. It's nice to be a part of it.

"Kane and Brendon are totally different people. Being vice-captain, like Kane was, is hard, as vice-captaincy is one of the toughest jobs in cricket. Now he's captain full time, he is not coming in and treading on any toes. I'm sure he will do very well as captain, and in the future Kane will be one of the best ever batsmen. Scoring runs, as he's doing, and having him as captain bodes well for the future of New Zealand."

When New Zealand travel to South Africa for a Test series in August, Taylor - the country's most experienced batsman - will be key. It is a testament to his temperament and professionalism that he's still going strong, often against the odds.

Until then he is enjoying life on the south coast of England with Sussex. There are no captaincy worries, no off-field politics, no childhood dreams turning into nightmares.

"Sussex is great, the club has been great and it's a lovely part of the world - except my two children have worked out that every time they go to the beach they get an ice cream!" he says.

"It's nice to have my family here, though. I bought my son a Sussex cricket ball the other day and he's got good hands for a two-year-old. If it means he gets an IPL deal in 20 years' time I wouldn't begrudge that."

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Bishop on June 18, 2016, 9:22 GMT

    @GAZZAC - spot on. And I wonder how successful Fleming would have been had he had McGrath, Warne, Hayden, Langer, Gilchrist and er... Ponting in his side. I suspect he would have won bucketloads.

  • Ms.Cricket on June 18, 2016, 8:49 GMT

    Brendon McCullum undermined Ross Taylor when Taylor was captain out of spite. Hesson is a fool and NZ cricket is worse off with him. Taylor would have been one of New Zealand's best ever Test captains were it not for the personal ambitions of Brendon McCullum and Mike Hesson.

  • dogandbone on June 18, 2016, 2:33 GMT

    choppa...dropped 4 times before 50 and if it had been against another certain country many many questions would have been asked.

  • gazzac on June 17, 2016, 20:19 GMT

    @ Alexk400 - would have been very interesting to see what Ponting would have achieved 'leading' the NZ side during Flemings era to see if he'd done any better - I dont think so, and pontings brilliant counter attack was just giving the ball to one of two of the best bowlers in history. ..

  • Alexk400 on June 17, 2016, 11:21 GMT

    Its not negativity. I know with respect to kane (he just got the job) we do not want to procrastinate how his captaincy will be. Another person i do not want him to captain is root. I regard good captain if he wins big tournament like world cup. You need many things to go your way to win big tournament. You need to have right people , right strategy , right atmosphere. There are many people have great cricket brain. Warne has great mind. But it won't translate into wins consistenly. Having a strategy is one thing and making people follow it to a letter is another thing. For me good captain is good leader. For pundits good captain is one who create a strategy to get odd wickets and odd win. Every dog has its day , if you consistently have a plan you win here and there. Great captain can will it to win. How many times you thought aussies finished and ponting counter attacked again and again. For me ponting is great leader. I rather have great leader than great captain who loses.

  • thebatsmansHoldingthebowlersWilley on June 17, 2016, 10:00 GMT

    @ ALEXK400 - you're talking rubbish there mate. Fleming was universally regarded as a very good captain. You can be a good captain in a side that doesn't win all the time. Fleming was tactically astute and got the best out of the players he had at his disposal. Nasser Hussain was another good captain, took over when England were ranked bottom, led them to series wins in Sri Lanka and Pakistan. But he never won the Ashes against Waugh, McGrath, Ponting Warne etc. According to your theory that makes him a bad captain? Nonsense

  • kiwicricketnut on June 17, 2016, 9:07 GMT

    i think kane showed some great leadership and captaincy at the t20 world cup but he will still be dissapointed about not winning it with a number one ranked side, sorry west indies fans but i cant help the rankings. Nz has always produced great thinkers and captains, lee germon being an exception, coney, crowe was revolutionary, fleming was regarded the best of his era, mccullum pulled nz out of the doldrums and now kane has his oppotunity to match these guys before him and hopefully surpass them, from what i've seen so far from him he looks the goods. the next best captain in the country for me is tom latham, has captained through the age groups and nza with successs, i'd of made him the vice. our odi and t20 teams look like they can beat anyone these days but our test team still has some way to go hopefully taylor can hang around a few years yet because the bulk of our test runs are going to be through him and kane.

  • byebyebaseball on June 17, 2016, 9:02 GMT

    Rossco is a lovely batsmen, a lovely person, and could have been a great captain in different in other circumstances. Spirit of Cricket? Yes, I know, McCullum is supposedly the epitome of this. And McC's ability to do so many things and to Hit like a jolt is amazing. His charisma won over almost everyone; but never fully me, I admit. I always wondered if he cared for the team or just was feeding his own ego. .And then there was the Cairns thing....who told the truth and who didn't? I don't know, but I ask you this -- can anyone imagine Rossco being caught up in this sort of a pile of crap?

  • choppa13 on June 17, 2016, 8:52 GMT

    @Alexk400 mate enough with the negativity. Kane has one of the best cricketing brains in world cricket as for him being quiet yes he is reserved but his performances will speak for itself others will follow and so will the results. Mccullum no batting skill? He had some of the best hand eye coordination. lacked consistency yes but I don't think u can get a test 300 purely on luck(ok he did get dropped twice in that innings but he made it count and that's what good batsmen do) nz cricket is in the best position it has been in years and has the right people to take it further. Cheers

  • Alexk400 on June 17, 2016, 7:47 GMT

    @LEETHAL_NZ I simply disagree. Mcullum and Dhoni are people have no batting skill. But how they bat without them? For example both of them lucky. Same sign. Do you want young people to copy Mcullum and dhoni techniques? NO WAY. They are ugly. Its like golf swing. Each body needs its own swing. They do not have good weight transfer in their technique. Mccullum came alive after trashing ishant sharma in that IPL. He basically jump up and flash the blade. Most time he connect. His eye sight was good and feet movement was good. Though Mccullum is all about guts. Dhoni is all about extreme luck. Both are born leaders. They can manage team and make it winnable. Fleming never won anything. I think most people confuse two things. When i say captain it include leadership. But for some people on field changes as a measure of captaincy. Kane will do that fine. Its win column he struggle and all poor captains struggle. Because they are poor manager of people.

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