Taylor takes notes from 'aggressive' captain Warne
Shane Warne will be a source of captaincy inspiration for Ross Taylor as he aims to instil a winning mindset in his New Zealand side. Taylor conceded past New Zealand teams have sometimes felt that a draw was as good as a victory, and that's an attitude he wants to change after being handed the leadership this week.
The drawn-out process to find Daniel Vettori's successor took nearly three months, as New Zealand Cricket waited for Taylor and the other contender, Brendon McCullum, to return home from the IPL. But it was in India that Taylor worked under the captaincy of Warne at the Rajasthan Royals, and he said he was inspired by the way Warne handled his men and never gave up.
"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," Taylor told ESPNcricinfo this week. "If you have a mindset of winning from any situation then more often than not those tight games will go your way."
And that's an attitude that hasn't always been present in New Zealand teams of recent years. They have won only two of their past 21 Tests, a stretch that goes back to October 2008, and during that time their only victories came against Bangladesh in Hamilton and Pakistan in Dunedin. It's nearly a decade since New Zealand have won a Test away from home against anyone but Bangladesh and Zimbabwe.
"I think sometimes we probably did feel that way [that a draw was as good as a win," Taylor said. "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. More often than not, 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 then we're going to get ourselves into trouble. If we go out there to win, it's a nice positive mindset to have."
The good thing for New Zealand is that two of their next three Test series are against Zimbabwe, who are returning to the five-day format after six years of self-imposed exile. That gives Taylor four winnable Tests within his first year in the job, and after playing Australia and South Africa they next year head to the Caribbean, where they won the series on their last tour in 2002.
The schedule is encouraging, at a time when New Zealand are starting afresh, with a new captain, a recently-installed coach, John Wright, a revamped selection process, and a high-performance system now being overhauled by John Buchanan. The aim is to lift the side from their current position of eighth on the ICC Test rankings table, above only Bangladesh.
"We've got some big series coming up," Taylor said. "We go to Zimbabwe, then to Australia, then Zimbabwe come here, then we've got South Africa here, then 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.
"The ultimate is to sit up at No. 1 or 2 and it's 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."
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo