June 23, 2011

'We need a core of seven to eight leaders in the team'

New Zealand's new captain, Ross Taylor, wants more players to step up, and is keen to retain his attacking batting style, and to use Vettori's experience to take the team forward

The appointment of Ross Taylor as New Zealand's captain marks the start of a fresh era for the side. The coach, John Wright, has been in the job only six months, the director of cricket, John Buchanan, is remodelling the high-performance systems, and the selection process has been streamlined. Taylor spoke to ESPNcricinfo about his promotion and what he sees as the way forward for a New Zealand side that has struggled in recent years.

New Zealand have only won two of their last 21 Tests. How can you turn this around?
We're always striving for consistency and we haven't quite found the right balance. That's the ultimate test of any captain of New Zealand - to get the team performing on a consistent basis - and I'm no different. We've got the talent in our squad and we just have to get the best out of individuals. If we can get a good core of senior players and get them up the world rankings, we'll be a better team for that.

Do you think the team have sometimes had the mindset that a draw is as good as a win?
I think sometimes we probably did feel that way. The way Test cricket is going, there are not a lot of draws these days. The only time there are draws are if the wicket is really flat or if the weather plays a part. The way Test cricket is played, Tests are won more often than not. We need to have that mindset. If we go out there just to draw series, we're going to get ourselves into trouble. If we go out there to win, it's a nice positive mindset to have.

Your first Test series as captain will be in Zimbabwe. Will there be extra pressure, knowing you are expected to win?
It's probably not a bad thing. We're not favourites against many teams. We went over as favourites against Bangladesh and the result was different. But it's an exciting time for New Zealand cricket. We've got a good core of young cricketers coming through the ranks, and I'm sure over the next couple of years these players will get some exposure, and it'll be a good time for New Zealand cricket. I'm looking forward to leading the team out against Zimbabwe.

When you've been stand-in captain, your batting has lifted. Is that a conscious focus - to lead by example?
I think so. It's one of the things I've taken from Dan's captaincy. He was always leading from the front, and I think one of the biggest things with leadership is to lead from the front. If you do that, others will follow. I've been happy with the way I've batted when I have captained the team, and I look forward to doing it when I'm captain full-time.

Is there part of you that thinks as captain you need to rein in some of the big, risky shots?
Probably a little bit of that comes into it with a bit more responsibility. But I've got to this part of my career with the way I play, and I can't see why I should do anything differently. The older you get, the more experienced you get, and the better you'll hone your technique and mental skills. The biggest thing I can do is still play the way I know how to play.

What have you learnt from the various captains you've played under?
They've all had their own way of going about things, but they've all been good. I've learnt a lot from Stephen Fleming, one of the best captains in world cricket, and Dan Vettori - the way he led from the front. In the IPL it was brilliant to play under Anil Kumble and Rahul Dravid and see the way they went about things, and Shane Warne and the aggressive nature that he had. Warnie is one of the most aggressive captains. One of the things I learnt from Warnie, and admired about him, was trying to get the best out of the team and individuals, and just winning from anywhere. If you have a mindset of winning from any situation then more often than not those tight games will go your way. There's a lot of hard work but I was very fortunate to play with those captains.

Will it feel odd captaining Daniel Vettori after he has done the job for so long?
I think it will be a little bit strange, but I have a good relationship with Dan. It will be nice to have his presence in the dressing room as well. He's got huge respect amongst the players. He's always good to get some ideas from, on the way the team is tracking. He's still undecided on whether he's going to play one-dayers this year, but at least we'll have him in the Test arena.

"If we can be somewhere from fourth to sixth in 12 months I think that would be a realistic goal"

There has sometimes been a feeling the side has relied too heavily on Daniel. Does that need to change?
If we've only got one or two players we rely on, we'll keep being inconsistent. We need to breed some leaders, and some players who need to step up. We can't afford to only have two or three. We need a good core of seven or eight players to stand up on any given day, and the more players we can get, if we can extend that out to eight, nine, 10, 11, then I think we'll be a strong team.

Who are the young guys who can step up?
The first name that comes to mind is Kane Williamson. He's got a big future with New Zealand. He's playing county cricket, and I'm sure he's learning a lot. There are also some players who haven't played for New Zealand, or who have only played a couple of games. We've got some exciting young fast bowlers coming through. Adam Milne was clocked up to 150kph against Pakistan in the two Twenty20 games he played. He's an exciting young talent. There are some others like Doug Bracewell, Ben Wheeler, Bevan Small coming through the ranks. They are exciting young prospects. Something that we haven't had a lot of is depth in our fast bowlers, but the group of players coming through is very exciting.

What do you enjoy about working with John Wright?
He had a lot of success with India, but he's very passionate about New Zealand. He likes to bring a lot of passion to the team. We both respect each other, probably have similar views on a lot of things, and are probably a little bit old-school in some respects. We both hate losing. I had a good relationship with Wrighty when I was a vice-captain, and I look forward to working with him more.

New Zealand are eighth in the Test rankings, ahead of only Bangladesh. What is your long-term goal for the side?
The ultimate is to sit up at No. 1 or 2, and not that long ago - probably at the start of my career - we weren't too far away from that. But we're down the bottom, and in some ways that's probably a nice thing - the only way to go from here is upwards. We've got some big series coming up, against Australia, Zimbabwe and South Africa. If we play like we know we can play on a more consistent basis, then I'm sure we'll go up those rankings.

How far do you think the side can progress within the next year?
We go to Zimbabwe, then to Australia, then Zimbabwe come here, then we've got South Africa here, and we go to the Caribbean after that. We're eighth in the Test rankings. If we can be somewhere from fourth to sixth in 12 months, I think that would be a realistic goal. That's something I think we can attain in the next 12 to 18 months.

Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo