Andrew Alderson

Andrew Alderson is a sport writer for the Herald on Sunday.

Cricket: Hesson's advice 'laughable'

Ross Taylor says he found coach Mike Hesson's tips on how to be a better leader "laughable".

In a frank interview - though he would not divulge what suggestions Hesson gave him about his captaincy - Taylor gave a sense of the loneliness of a cricket captain to whom few people would talk.

As confidant, he seems only to have had Martin Guptill on tour to talk to - even though his grandmother, who helped raise him, had died during the cricket team's tour of Sri Lanka.

That was around the same time coach Hesson gave Taylor his "not wanted" message.

As mentor, he had Martin Crowe - though Taylor felt guilty about talking to Crowe during his cancer treatment.

Other than that, there was only Skype - the digital link back home to his wife Victoria and 14-month-old daughter Mackenzie. The solitary feeling was sharpest when he said goodbye to his family and Skype was switched off at night.

That's true of any long cricket tour, never mind one with a fierce captaincy debate raging and with the skipper feeling that he was if not abandoned, then extremely isolated.

"That's the hardest thing," Taylor says in reference to the loneliness of random hotel rooms. "I don't know how cricketers did it (go on months-long tours) back in the day."

Taylor has dealt with his demotion in a dignified fashion but it is clear he was crushed and struggled to cope. His angst in Sri Lanka was exacerbated by the recent loss of his grandmother and the toll of being away from family for much of the year.

Taylor knew he was under the microscope before the end of October's Champions League in South Africa.

"I knew it'd be tough from the outset (with Hesson). I gave him as much support as I could but it wasn't reciprocated. We liaised during the Champions League. He wrote down a few things for me to improve on, which were laughable, frankly."

Taylor won't elaborate but says: "I haven't done anything wrong here. I look forward to playing with the team again but it'll be a different relationship. I knew I had areas to work on, like in communication, but I didn't get much support. Instead, I organised a number of things myself, like chatting to (psychologist) Gilbert Enoka. I thought that indicated I was trying to be a better captain.

"I'm more disappointed in the process to be told four days before the test series began [in Sri Lanka] that they didn't want me as captain. I also wasn't consulted in the tour review process by (NZC chairman Chris) Moller or (NZC chief executive David) White. No one got hold of me. Having said that, (NZC director of cricket) John Buchanan has been outstanding to me during this process. He gets a lot of flak but has been an amazing support.

"Martin Crowe's also been a mentor, especially seeing as he's experienced a similar situation (back in 1993, when Ken Rutherford eventually took the helm). He's been great but I feel bad because it's been during his cancer treatment. It hasn't stopped me wanting to knock off his records though."

During a solemn chat, that's as close as Taylor comes to exercising his characteristic dry humour. It is also an indication he wants to return.

He felt compelled to confide in someone about the captaincy situation. Guptill was his man.

"I don't want to go through that again," Taylor says. "But I was determined during both tests not to tell anybody except Martin. I didn't tell anyone else in the team until after the series."


He might have felt alone but Taylor's loss of the captaincy has exploded the myth New Zealand cricket fans - and the wider public - suffer from apathy. It has unleashed a barrage of vitriol on the New Zealand Cricket team's management and the sport's administrators.

Taylor has drawn a cult following; the public recognise a fighter who has been hard done by after leading New Zealand to their first away victory over Sri Lanka in 14 years. There is sympathy for someone who has suffered at worst a cover-up and at best a misunderstanding over the captaincy role management saw for him.

Taylor is perhaps a victim of being early to the leadership, usurping a job many saw as best suited for Brendon McCullum after Daniel Vettori's abdication. Yet Taylor took the reins and the public applauded as he led New Zealand to victory with innings of 142 and 74 in Colombo and away from the ignominy of a record-equalling sixth straight test defeat. However, the damage had been done in the eyes of Hesson.

New Zealand is eighth in the world in tests and Twenty20s and has slipped to a record low ninth in one-dayers, behind Bangladesh.

Hesson deemed that change was required to break the cycle, especially with world test No1 South Africa and No2 England up next. Last month's win against Sri Lanka, last year's test victory against Australia and the tied World T20 matches against eventual finalists Sri Lanka and the West Indies could not balance calamitous series losses to South Africa, India and the West Indies.

Taylor has compensated by opting out of the tour to South Africa which has seen him accused in some quarters of "throwing his toys" because he didn't get what he wanted.

"It was a hard decision. The main thing was I couldn't give 100 per cent against the No1 in the world," Taylor says.

"That's not good enough but the public support I've received has been humbling. I'm still left with a raw feeling. It's fresh in the mind, but a few weeks off to recharge and refresh will hopefully see me right for England.

"At least I can take Mackenzie to the park and be a normal dad enjoying summer," says Taylor.

- Herald on Sunday

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