Taylor flourishing in his happy place
Tongue sticking out while soaking in the applause - that has been the image of Ross Taylor's golden New Zealand summer. Three successive Test hundreds against West Indies, two successive ODI centuries against India. He has sought out all corners to find the space he is in at the moment, where everything seems to be going right. Not too long ago, when the captaincy was yanked away from him, nothing was. Unable to focus, Taylor even pulled out of the game for a while.
But he was determined to not go down fighting a lone battle, and sought help. From his mentor Martin Crowe and from All Blacks sports psychologist Gilbert Enoka, among others. It was an honest admission from the man that he needed assistance, and rather than view that as something suggesting frailty, as some might, Taylor sees it in a positive hue.
"Just ask questions and seek help in areas you want to improve on. I think it is a sign of strength that you can go and seek help and not think about everything yourself," Taylor said. "Other people specialise in those areas and it's nice to pick their brain. It's not about listening to them wholeheartedly. It's just about picking their brains and if there's one or two things that you pick up, then you are a better player for it.
"Talked to my mentor, worked with a couple of psychologists as well to try and get me in the most relaxed frame of mind as possible," Taylor said. "Controlling what you can control [is what it's about]. There's a lot of things that do come into your mind before and during games and if you deal with it, hopefully the better you can go out there and perform. Cricket is a mental game and at the moment, I am pretty happy about where I am at."
Taylor says Crowe has been "outstanding" in helping him reach that happy place. "He has been a world-class player in his own right and it's nice to get him to look at your technique. Our batting coach at New Zealand has to look at a lot of players. He can look at my game from an individual point of view and pick up things that maybe our batting coach might miss. He has gone through lots of ups and downs in his career. It's nice for him to pass that knowledge on to me, about how to deal with different situations."
Apart from talking to people he felt he could trust, Taylor said it was also critical to keep believing in himself while his overcame his difficult patch. "A lot of people never saw that side of me but it was nice to come out probably a lot stronger mentally. A lot of people that I have talked about so far have helped out in that process. The whole time, you have to trust your abilities and who you work with. I don't think if you don't trust them, you would be working with them in the first place.
"You have just got to trust yourself and know you are good enough. At times, when you are out of form, you go searching for things that don't need fixing. You just need a little bit of luck to go your way and still trust your own game and your processes. Sometimes when you are out of form, you try and look at things too indepthly. Just try and relax and trust your abilities.
"I think the older you get, the better you get at relaxing. And it's nice to pick the brains of other individuals and if you can do that, then hopefully they can take the pressure off you and you don't focus on the negative side too much."
One thing that has remained the focus has been Taylor's relationship with the man who replaced him as captain, Brendon McCullum, and the man who had a major role in him being replaced, coach Mike Hesson. Taylor had said earlier that his interactions with Hesson have improved and that they share a "very good working relationship" now.
The one with McCullum is different. It goes back to their junior days together. After all that has happened around the captaincy, Taylor and McCullum made a lovely picture sitting together at the press conference after the ODI series was taken 4-0 in Wellington. Taylor kept playfully needling McCullum about his failure to win any toss in the series, and also told him to desist from speaking about the "blueprint", a word McCullum had used often through the series.
"I have been team-mates with Brendon for a long time, right from Under-19s to now. We are good team-mates.
"If I see something, I always tell Brendon. Even before I was captain, I'd always tell [Daniel] Vettori little things. There is no use thinking these ideas and keeping them to yourself. You got to tell them and then at the end of the day, it's the captain's decision whether to use it or not."
He may no longer be the leader, but Taylor says the captaincy brought out the best in him as a batsman, and that he still likes to mentor young team-mates. "I think the leadership side, I lead by scoring runs and trying to get as many people to follow [suit] as possible. As a senior batsman, you need to lead from the front and hopefully I am doing that.
"A lot of the time, they have their own routines but when you are out there in the middle, you probably talk a lot more to them and try and bat them through their innings, especially at the start of it. When we are off the field, I am always open to individuals coming over to have a chat with me. I don't throw things upon them but if they have questions, then I will answer them."
Taylor knows it is the runs that matter in the end, and that as long as they keep coming, all will be well. Being in the best form of his life certainly helps, but Taylor has been through too much to start taking things for granted.
"Any time you are scoring runs and winning games, it makes it a lot easier and obviously it's a happy team. I am hitting the ball very well and I think I am in the best mindset that I have ever been in my career. I don't want to get too carried away, though, I just want to go with the same routine that I have had and hopefully I can have some more success. Just the way I train and go about my business, work hard. It's nice when you do work hard, and put the time and effort in, to get results."
Abhishek Purohit is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo