Returning Taylor adopts a systematic approach

By ANENDRA SINGH sports editor

IT SEEMS it doesn't matter to Ross Taylor as long as no one else minds his methodical and patient build up to international duties.

Not surprisingly the discarded New Zealand captain will be the first to admit a self-imposed lay-off means he is slowly but surely working his way back into form.

"When you're six or seven weeks off the game you tend to get a little bit rusty," he said after Devon Hotel Central Districts Stags' stunning 191-run victory over Auckland Aces at Eden Park on Saturday.

While the T20 and one-day internationals required a different mind set, he was happy to have played two first-class matches for CD as he prepares for the three test matches against England who are here on a seven-week tour.

McLean Park, Napier, will host the second ODI, day/nighter from 2pm, on Wednesday, February 20, in surprisingly its only international cricket fixture this summer.

Taylor's impending return to the international arena has somewhat overshadowed the Stags' past two four-day Plunket Shield matches but the Black Cap has almost consciously kept a low profile.

The most prudent of cricket fans regard him as the only established New Zealand international calibre batsman and he showed against Canterbury Wizards at McLean Park a fortnight ago he was striking the ball with aplomb, albeit not occupying the crease long enough to turn a half ton into a century.

Nevertheless, passive field placements - earning the respect of the Gareth Hopkins-captained Aucklanders in the last round - have inhibited his predatory instincts before today's New Zealand XI v England Twenty/20 match in Whangarei.

Emphasising he always relishes returning to the CD fold between hectic international schedules, Taylor found the experience therapeutic after opting out of the South African tour following the much-publicised coup that saw New Zealand coach Mike Hesson and the New Zealand Cricket board unceremoniously oust him from the mantle of captaincy.

Labelled a public relations disaster, the ejection won Taylor a legion of fans who sympathised with him over the manner and timing with which he was notified of his impending dismissal before the last test match against Sri Lanka. After the Black Caps' disastrous test series against world No 1 Proteas, some segments of the media questioned Taylor's commitment and sense of loyalty to his country.

On Saturday, he reaffirmed his allegiance to the cause.

"I think anytime you play for your country it's a big deal," said the 28-year-old veteran of 43 tests who had dedicated his ton in the winning test against Sri Lanka in November to his late paternal grandmother, an emotionally charged spell when Hesson and Co broke the news on the termination of his captaincy.

With CD sports psychologist Gary Hermansson within reach, Taylor seems to be finding a modicum of traction to return on his terms.

Hermansson had alluded to how Taylor had adopted a back-foot stance akin to Jesse Ryder, who has quashed speculations of returning for the England tour.

"I've worked with Gary for a few years. I've always enjoyed talking to him right from the Black Caps to CD and he's been invaluable."

Playing the game between his ears is a gifted Taylor's challenge because his batting prowess, albeit with unorthodox undertones, has never been under scrutiny.

Hermansson, 72, of Palmerston North, last week said the intensity of Taylor's return had been heightened amid immense scrutiny from people wondering how he would manage.

"Ross' biggest challenge is now to be able to recognise what is going on around him and park it, so that when he's batting, ball by ball, those things don't intrude," the expert had said.

Taylor has looked sharp fielding at slips in his two first-class matches. Whether he racks up significant knocks in the T20s or ODIs will again be irrelevant statistics going into the test series although it can be perceived as a yardstick to where he is brimming confidence with the bat.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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