Ross Taylor named New Zealand captain
Ross Taylor's prolific run-scoring during his time as New Zealand's stand-in captain was a major factor in him beating Brendon McCullum for the full-time job. Taylor has been named as the captain in all three formats and the New Zealand Cricket (NZC) hierarchy believes he will operate in a similar style to his predecessor Daniel Vettori, who led by example, with minimal fuss.
Taylor, 27, was preferred over McCullum after being interviewed by a three-man panel consisting of the coach John Wright, the director of cricket John Buchanan and the acting national selection manager Mark Greatbatch. The decision took nearly three months following the side's return from the World Cup, where Vettori stepped down after the semi-final loss to Sri Lanka, and a vice-captain is unlikely to be named until the squad to tour Zimbabwe in September is announced.
Greatbatch said Taylor had won out in part due to his success in as captain, having led the side to six victories from 14 ODIs and Twenty20s, compared to McCullum's two wins from nine games in charge. Taylor has also batted well while at the helm, averaging 46.45 across both formats, while McCullum's mark as captain is 26.22.
"They're both great Kiwis and good lads who have played for their country for a long time now," Greatbatch told Radio Sport. "We had to make a tough decision and we've done that. I'm sure Ross will lead his country well. They were both very good candidiates. They've both had experience as vice-captain under Dan.
"Both by nature are very good tactically and aggressive characters. Brendon might show it a bit more than Ross, but Ross is very competitive. He's had the recent experience. He beat Australia and Pakistan recently as captain of New Zealand. He's a good listener. His own game has improved as captain. He's got a better record as captain than as a player. Those sorts of things were taken into consideration."
It will be a tough ask following the popular Vettori, who at one point was a selector as well as captain and the team's best player. However, Greatbatch said Taylor was likely to lead in a similar manner to Vettori - from the front, with more emphasis on leading by example than delivering fire-and-brimstone motivational speeches.
"He wasn't that forceful to the players," Greatbatch said of Vettori. "From his own form himself as a player he demanded excellence, because he was a pretty useful performer worldwide for us. I think Ross will be similar. He'll be looking for his own game to be tip-top as often as he can, to be consistent. That to me is the biggest way to lead. If a captain can lead from the front with his own performance, then a lot of people follow."
Taylor conceded that he was "very quiet" and preferred to speak with individuals rather than larger groups, but said he was confident he could steer the side in the right direction. Taylor led the New Zealanders twice at the World Cup, where they went within one victory of making the final, and he said his challenge was to help them perform to a similar level in Test cricket.
"I was very happy with the way we played in the World Cup and the fighting spirit we showed," Taylor said. "We've been very inconsistent in the Test arena and we probably haven't played as well as we would have liked. Each individual has to step up and commit to training hard and working hard as a team. We need to bat long periods of time with the bat and get 20 wickets. If we don't do those two things very well then we're going to struggle.
"Test cricket is still the ultimate for me. I look forward to playing Test cricket. Some other people may differ, but for me Test cricket is still the ultimate and where I want to get the most out of myself and the team. Once that happens, one-day cricket and Twenty20 is also in there as well."
Taylor learnt of NZC's decision while he was making preparations for his upcoming wedding, and he described it as "a great honour" to be installed as the captain. He said he was also hoping that his promotion might encourage more young players from Polynesian and Maori backgrounds to take up cricket.
"I missed the phone call from John Buchanan," he said. "I was trying to pick wedding songs for this coming Saturday. I had the music going a bit too loud. When it came through my partner was very happy and the first phone call was to Mum and Dad.
"I'm very proud of my Samoan heritage," he added. "With this role, not only playing for New Zealand but captaining, hopefully I can inspire some more Polynesians and Maoris to this game of cricket. They're very talented athletes and I'm sure it's an untapped market. You never know, in ten years' time there could be a few more."
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo