Cricket: Taylor searching for positives

By Daniel Richardson

New Zealand cricket captain Ross Taylor. Photo / AP
New Zealand cricket captain Ross Taylor. Photo / AP

New Zealand skipper Ross Taylor didn't dance around the fact his side needs to be better with the bat in the upcoming cricket tour to India but believes the challenge is more mental than technical.

Kiwis woke up this morning to digest another comprehensive test defeat for their national team at the hands of the West Indies at Sabina Park in Jamaica.

The second test wrapped up during the first session of day four when the West Indies breezed to their target of 206 with five second-innings wickets in hand, having begun the day on 135-4. The victory gave them a 2-0 series victory.

Taylor was keen to reach for the positives when he spoke to media on a conference call, despite his team having also lost the Twenty20 fixtures 2-0 and the one-day series 4-1.

"Batting - we probably won't look into the technical side of it too much. The batting and cricket in general is probably a big mental game and we need to address the mental side of the game a bit more; applying ourselves and setting ourselves up to bat long periods of time," Taylor said.

"I think we've still got to take a positive from Martin Guptill. He was the top run-scorer in the series, so it's not all doom and gloom."

You could take two approaches to Guptill's series though.

In four innings the opener passed 50 three times, but his dismissal late on day one of the first test for 97 following an across-the-line slog at spinner Sunil Narine was nothing short of a brainsnap given the state of play and how hard the Aucklander had worked during his innings.

His inability to convert his starts into big, meaningful individual totals is a growing concern and in 24 tests he has passed 50 13 times but turned only two of those half-centuries in to hundreds - and they came against Bangladesh and Zimbabwe.

But it's hard to argue that if Guptill didn't average 69.25 during the series, New Zealand would have had a lot fewer runs to play with and his temperament overall was impressive as he looked to build an innings and occupy the crease.

The same can't be said for his teammates, and watching Taylor's wild cut shots that brought about his demise twice in the second test was cringeworthy.

Brendon McCullum still demands to bat in the top three at test level but hasn't made a century in nearly two years, while Kane Williamson should have delivered more on the tour, and Dean Brownlie's spot in the side must be up for debate.

Wicket-keeper batsman Kruger van Wyk did little to make you believe he's a better option than BJ Watling, while Daniel Flynn is a battler but needs to produce as an opener.

Granted, the bowlers didn't take 20 wickets in either test but having to defend totals of under 300 simply puts too much pressure on a young bowling unit.

Three West Indian batsmen made centuries in the series, which provided backbone to their side's batting and proved it wasn't an impossible task.

The test matches were a sad end to coach John Wright's tenure with the New Zealand side and incoming mentor Mike Hesson might have a couple of sleepless nights before he heads away to India with the team.

The squads to tour India - to play two tests and a pair of Twenty20 fixtures, starting on August 23 - are likely to be named in the next week.

Injury concerns surround Daniel Vettori and Flynn, and more information will be known on their availability in the next few days.

- APNZ

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