Ironically, Ross Taylor's standing in New Zealand cricket has, if anything, been enhanced by his sacking from the captaincy of the national side. His dismissal has been widely judged to have been unfair, the more so because he had just led from the front in carrying the Black Caps to a rare test victory in Sri Lanka. There is now just one thing that he could do to endear himself even further to cricket followers. That is to fly to the rescue of the team in South Africa. It would be the grandest of gestures if he were to arrive in Port Elizabeth in time for the start of the second test on Friday.
Taylor could do this knowing that the folly of his demotion had been laid bare. A coach has every right to change his captain, but only if there is a candidate who is demonstrably superior. Taylor's successor, Brendon McCullum, confirmed all the fears about the consequences of his gung-ho attitude when he chose to bat against the world's best pace attack in the first test. The rushes of blood that are part and parcel of his batting will, predictably enough, be a feature of his captaincy. The outcome on this occasion was the humiliating first-innings 45 and comprehensive defeat.
Mike Hesson, the coach whose misjudgment led to McCullum's elevation, has tried to insist Taylor's absence had no impact on that dire performance. "I don't think it did. It had an effect leading into the test and we discussed that as a group, then we moved on," he said this week. "No doubt Ross batting at four would have been useful for us and that was Ross' decision and we respect that."
Hesson said, further, that Taylor's absence led to the playing of Dean Brownlie, who scored a century in the second innings. This, however, ignored the fact that Brownlie scored a duck in the embarrassing first innings. Taylor, who averaged almost 50 in tests while he held the captaincy and is easily the country's premier batsman, was badly missed.
It was not difficult to see why he would want to spend some time away from the national side. The nature of his dismissal was as deplorable as the lack of judgment behind it. Until that time, Taylor's desire to play, and win, for New Zealand was absolutely unquestioned. He had also demonstrated his willingness to play for Central Districts whenever he could.
His absence from even provincial cricket speaks volumes about his state of mind, the more so because the captaincy issue has nothing to with Central Districts. The province, which languishes at the foot of the Twenty20 table, would have certainly relished runs from his bat. Playing at that level would also have helped to ease him back into the game if, as appears to be the case, his preference is to return against the touring England side next month.
John Buchanan, New Zealand Cricket's director of cricket, has talked of Taylor needing to find the "fire inside". Any professional cricketing career will involve a number of highs and lows. Wallowing in the lows serves no purpose. In this instance, the fire referred to by Buchanan should be rekindled by the sad spectacle of the national side and its desperate need for his batting skills.
Taylor could be excused for taking some satisfaction from the first-test debacle. But, on reflection, he must realise that the Black Caps need him more now than at any time during his test career. Answering the call would simultaneously lift his stocks to the highest level and underline the extent of Hesson's misjudgment.