Andrew Alderson

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

Cricket: NZ dispirited under Taylor

Sources close to the Black Caps say Ross Taylor had to be dumped as captain for the good of the team. Photo / NZ Herald
Sources close to the Black Caps say Ross Taylor had to be dumped as captain for the good of the team. Photo / NZ Herald

There was no player mutiny nor one in prospect but Ross Taylor's tenure as New Zealand cricket captain was becoming untenable.

Sources close to the team say dissatisfaction with Taylor's captaincy style had risen but it was new coach Mike Hesson who took the decision to make the change.

What he'd seen, sources say, were several things: A dispirited dressing room. A captain whose communication skills were not up to lifting spirits. A kind of vicious circle where poor results stifled performance. Bowlers who were tired of Taylor's remonstrations when they, for example, bowled a bad ball.

Taylor led from the front with his batting but that was no longer enough to take the team with him.

The Herald on Sunday spoke to some of the best minds in New Zealand cricket, many closely placed to the team. The picture consistently painted - and there are two schools of thought on the Taylor issue - is of a coach who thought change had to be made if performance was to be lifted; change which couldn't wait.

For Taylor, the decision - or the way it was implemented - has been intolerable to this point, hence his absence from the tour to South Africa. His anger is understandable.

However, what is being ignored by some fans, say sources, is that Hesson faced a tough call. It was easier to do nothing but, in the interests of the team's long-term success, he chose to be bold.

His coaching tenure will be judged on that; many already see him as out of his depth, making the quantum leap from Otago and Kenya to coaching a test side.

Regardless of his intention - and the politically-correct notion it would 'divvy up responsibility' - in hindsight it's hard to see how this could have had created anything but a flashpoint for Taylor, especially with the appalling timing before the test series. As one source noted this week: "Nobody in their right mind would conduct it this way."

Numerous sources close to the team suggest Taylor's lack of vision, communication and, on rare occasion, temperament had left the side dispirited.

Naturally not a loquacious leader, Taylor could afford to speak less under former coach John Wright, who conducted more dressing room talk. Hesson prefers to leave it to the captain.

"Without doubt (it had to happen)" was a phrase used by one source in relation to of Hesson's decision. There was also a strong school of thought that stressed Taylor was honest, loyal and had no hidden agendas. There were those in the team prepared to follow him but there was no question, sources said, that some in the team were tiring of his captaincy style.

To Taylor's credit, he was using his initiative to improve himself privately but the damage had been done. The bowlers were a particular case study. It was suggested there was not enough encouragement or empathy as they went about their toil. Some would argue an angry bowler hungry to get wickets to please a glaring skipper is a good thing, but it had become overused as a strategy.

No one questioned Taylor's ability as a batsman, fielder and honourable bloke but it got to a point where the team needed leadership through more than just his bat and hands. There is no dispute he produced the runs but Hesson apparently felt leadership of an international sports team required more, given the side is basically a second family much of the year.

Hesson has become public enemy No 1 in some quarters, mainly because of the debate over whether he intended Taylor to keep any form of the captaincy rather than just the tests. The saga began when Hesson, manager Mike Sandle and assistant coach Bob Carter entered Taylor's hotel room on November 13, four days before the first test against Sri Lanka at Galle.

Taylor says the test captaincy was never mentioned and he thought he'd been stripped of all forms. Hesson and NZC say it was intended only that captaincy of the short forms be shifted - but the offer of leading the test team was not specified in the hotel room.

What is not in dispute is that Hesson felt compelled to make a pragmatic - some would argue brave - decision in the interests of a team ranked eighth in tests and Twenty20 and ninth in one-dayers. The irony of the decision is that it was Taylor's heroics in the second test against Sri Lanka that saved the side from equalling New Zealand's worst test losing streak.

What many forget is Taylor's captaincy was already under scrutiny before Hesson took over but it seems the 38-year-old, who is regularly referred to as having "no test experience" and who has patronisingly been called "a boy" in some media, is going to take the rap regardless. Hesson also faced pressure from director of cricket John Buchanan who was adamant Taylor should be retained.

Taylor is hardly a unique cricketing example in this regard. Greats such as Sachin Tendulkar (captain in 25 of 193 tests), Brian Lara (47 of 131) and Ian Botham (12 of 102) were the best players in their teams but held the leadership for limited periods. Botham even produced his Ashes Headingley follow-on masterpiece the test after he stepped down.

Taylor now needs to focus on being New Zealand's greatest batsman and mop up the records of mentor Martin Crowe. With eight test centuries at age 28, there is plenty of time to get to Crowe's 17 for starters.

Read more:

Hesson's advice 'laughable'
Tall tasks await 'annoyed' McCullum
Taylor's start as skipper rivals Black Caps' best
Mark Richardson: Genuine motives ruined by approach

- Herald on Sunday

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_a5 at 02 Sep 2014 19:21:40 Processing Time: 629ms