May 16, 2011

Power to Taylor

Danny Morrison
Alongside John Wright as coach, Ross Taylor could make a real impact on New Zealand's quest for a more successful future

These are interesting times in world cricket. Many of the international head-coaching jobs, and for that matter assistant-coach roles, are or have recently been up for grabs. New Zealand Cricket has had its fair share of coaches come and go in recent years, but thankfully it appears to have settled down with the freshly appointed former India coach John Wright taking the mantle. Wright, a one-time opening batsman and captain, brings with him huge playing experience and an impressive coaching CV.

I have had quite a bit to do with him over the past 23 years: during my early playing days, during commentary stints within New Zealand, and most recently for some coaching work in Australia. Wright brought a New Zealand A squad for a tournament in Brisbane last August and it gave me a special insight into his workings with the group, and how passionate he is with his coaching. What I particularly like about him is his wonderful, down-to-earth, somewhat nurturing manner, and his ability to guide the young cricketers under his watchful eye.

There is a changing of the guard on many levels within New Zealand cricket, and Wright has had to contend with them all. Scott Styris and Jacob Oram are nearing the end of their international careers, Chris Martin only has a few years left, and Daniel Vettori has stepped down from the captaincy.

I think it's the right move, and the right time, for Vettori to have stepped aside to focus on his own game. Ross Taylor gets my tick of approval as his replacement. He has been in the set-up for some time and has shown he is a quality player. In fact, along with Stephen Fleming and Martin Crowe, he is in the list of New Zealand's standout top-order batsmen of the past 25 years.

Having been in the commentary box watching the Black Caps all over the world over the past decade, I have been able to chat with the players and coaches and get an understanding and a vibe of how things tick along in the team.

It's never quite as easy to have in-depth, robust discussions with players or coaches at the venue on match day, as players are in the "bubble" or the "family circle" and outsiders are kept at arm's length. You often hear of athletes having blinkers on and being rather sensitive to the media making comments about their game. A good percentage of current players, though, are more media-savvy, and willing to talk about some issues, than say those playing 15 years ago.

I have enjoyed the opportunity to address New Zealand teams while on tour. Even the simple presentation of a cap to a debutant helps build rapport with players, and these experiences help me express valid and helpful insights on air that otherwise would not get heard.

The cricket landscape has changed massively with the advent of Twenty20, with players getting to know those from other teams better. Taylor is a product of this new ethos, and I am hugely impressed with what I've seen of him. He has had some good mentors to help him of late, which has contributed to his recent success.

Taylor has a rather quiet but steely resolve about him when it comes to the battle. Some have said he likes to play too many shots too early in his innings. Possibly, but he is a gifted strokemaker and you wouldn't want him to go into a shell either. He still has a way to go with his game, but I think he has the strength of character to lead New Zealand through these changing times.

There are questions about his ability to captain in all three forms of the game, with some saying he should focus on Tests and one-dayers. I believe he should start off with all three formats because it will allow the team to have a more consistent voice across the board, and given that there are quite a few changes happening within the Black Caps, this could be the settling force they need.

Former New Zealand bowler Danny Morrison is now a television commentator