As he showed in his man-of-the-match performance in Colombo, Taylor's promising leadership skills only needed time to mature.

Coaches should, as a general rule, be entitled to select who they wish to captain their teams. But that principle comes with caveats.

There must, in the first instance, be a candidate whose leadership will clearly be superior to that of the incumbent.

Secondly, the coach must have demonstrable experience and nous, so that when captaincy is changed, it has the stamp of credibility.

In the axing of New Zealand cricket captain Ross Taylor, neither of these conditions are met. It cannot, therefore, be viewed as other than an horrendous misjudgment that reflects very badly on coach Mike Hesson and the management of New Zealand Cricket.


Taylor is, unquestionably, New Zealand's best batsman. Since taking the captaincy in June last year, when John Wright was the coach, he has averaged almost 50 in tests.

His leadership, while not perfect, has been promising. Test victories in Hobart and, most recently, Colombo, were no flukes. Nor do disunited teams achieve such feats. There was every prospect that Taylor would mature into a good captain.

The seeds for his downfall were planted when Wright walked from the coaching job a month after Taylor became captain.

Hesson brought to the job limited success with Otago, a short stint with the Kenyan national side, and a close relationship with Brendon McCullum from their time together in provincial cricket.

McCullum had just lost out to Taylor in a contest for the captaincy. The strong possibility that Hesson would want him as his captain should, with his limited experience, have prompted the New Zealand Cricket board to look elsewhere for a coach.

It should also be perturbed about the prospect of McCullum replacing Taylor. He has led New Zealand in Twenty20 internationals without any particular distinction.

There is no reason to believe his leadership will not mimic his batting, and that there will be similar ill-judged rushes of blood to the head. McCullum's reward for this debacle will be to take on South Africa, the world's top-ranked team, on its own soil without New Zealand's premier batsman. The victory against Sri Lanka seems a long way away.

McCullum must also cope with the fact that Taylor's exit was not the result of dressing-room unrest. Whatever the murmurings about his man-management skills, which were bound to improve over time, there is no suggestion the players wanted a change.

Taylor has endured a torrid time, thanks to Wright's departure, the friction inherent in Hesson's arrival, and the failure of key players to perform consistently. There can, however, have been few better instances of leading by example than his man-of-the-match display in Colombo.

His feat there was the more extraordinary given it has been widely reported that Hesson had asked him to step down before the series.

Taylor was offered the option of retaining the test captaincy, while McCullum would lead the one-day and Twenty20 teams. It is perfectly understandable that he chose, instead, to take what New Zealand Cricket is keen to characterise as a break. His desire to play, and win, for New Zealand has been apparent from the start. Sacking him in this manner is deplorable.

This week's Herald series on the woes of cricket in this country was headlined "The Shame Game".

Taylor's shabby treatment supplies the final evidence, if it were needed, of the appropriateness of that judgment.