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February 7, 2013
Taylor back in New Zealand fold
Ross Taylor trained with the New Zealand team in Auckland on Thursday, for the first time since he turned down the Test captaincy and took a break from cricket in early December. Following the practice session, which was in preparation for the England Twenty20s, Taylor said he was still working on rebuilding his rapport with coach Mike Hesson.
"The relationship's a work in progress, but I've got friends in the team and I'm looking forward to playing for them, and obviously playing for management and the country as well,'' Taylor was quoted as saying by APNZ.
Taylor had opted out of New Zealand's tour to South Africa following a contentious captaincy handover to Brendon McCullum, in the lead up to which Hesson had apparently questioned Taylor's ability to lead the team. However, Taylor maintained that relations between him and McCullum were fine: "I met Brendon this morning, I'm sure we'll go and meet up over the next couple of days somewhere. I don't think was anything wrong with our relationship in the first place.''
He said he was looking to move on from the controversy as quickly as possible. "I haven't seen anything untoward [coming from team-mates] towards myself. And I've just been acting like my normal self, so I don't see anything there.
"There are probably still people outside of the team that want to stir it up a little bit, but we can't control that. You've just got to get on with it. It is what it is, and I'm sure come Saturday it'll be all forgotten."
New Zealand will take on England in the first of three T20s on Saturday, and Taylor said he will not refrain from offering McCullum advice on the field: "I did that even when I wasn't captain, so I don't see any change in that. Regardless of whether you're a senior player or a junior player, if you've got something to offer the team you'd be stupid not to offer it.''
England batsman, Eoin Morgan, however, suggested that the distance between Hesson and Taylor could pose problems. Having witnessed the damaging dressing-room rift which saw Kevin Pietersen excluded from the England set-up last summer, Morgan has first-hand experience of how strained personal relationships can affect a team.
"I think I'd find it difficult if I didn't get along with the coach," he said. "You spend a lot of time with each other, and your coach is normally someone you seek advice from. For me, it would be crucial to get along with my coach."
A further issue for a New Zealand is how to get the best out of McCullum. Following the T20s, the teams face-off in three ODIs and three Tests and, according to national selection manager Kim Littlejohn, McCullum's role with the bat could change in that Test series. "There's every chance McCullum may bat at No. 5," Littlejohn said. "Mike has some pretty strong views about where he believes Brendon is best suited.
"We've had some preliminary discussions, nothing is locked and loaded, but it's definitely under consideration. We do have problems at Nos. 1 and 2, and we've got to tidy those up."
New Zealand were handed two innings defeats in the series against South Africa last month, and in those four innings the opening partnership of McCullum and Martin Guptill extended into double digits only once, 48 being their best effort. Since the beginning of 2012, McCullum has opened with Guptill nine times and the pair has crossed a stand of 32 just once - that was a 124-run partnership in a winning effort, but it came against Zimbabwe. In the same period, apart from the innings against Zimbabwe, McCullum has crossed 50 just once as an opener.
New Zealand are expected to name their squad for the Test series, which begins on March 6, on February 20.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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