Brendon McCullum book lifts lid on captaincy stoush that dominated the 2012 headlines

By Dylan Cleaver

Brendon McCullum (right) writes in his book that the first serious cracks in Ross Taylor's leadership appeared during the disastrous tour to the West Indies in 2012. Photo / File
Brendon McCullum (right) writes in his book that the first serious cracks in Ross Taylor's leadership appeared during the disastrous tour to the West Indies in 2012. Photo / File

Brendon McCullum has lifted the lid on the captaincy stoush that dominated New Zealand cricket in 2012, going into explicit detail about teammate Ross Taylor's failings as a captain and their fraught relationship.

McCullum writes that the first serious cracks in Taylor's leadership appeared during the disastrous tour to the West Indies in 2012.

In his book Declared, which hit the shelves today, McCullum claims Ross Taylor, who beat him to the top job when Dan Vettori gave up the captaincy following the 2011 World Cup, was an uninspiring skipper and the team was on the point of imploding during his tenure.

McCullum said the trouble that would eventually engulf the team and drive a wedge between him and Taylor began in the Caribbean.

Initially rested for the T20s and ODIs at the behest of outgoing coach John Wright, McCullum was flown to the West Indies at short notice to lead the side when Taylor was injured. McCullum's proposed captaincy never eventuated.

"Either Ross was highly resistant to my captaining the team and leant on Wrighty to change his mind, or it was just an organisational cock-up by Wrighty. The rest of the tour suggested the latter, because much of it was a shambles," McCullum writes.

McCullum was critical of Taylor's leadership on that difficult tour, saying Taylor stayed in his room when his players needed to see him, particularly with Wright's behaviour becoming "increasingly bizarre".

"If you wanted to talk to [Ross], you had to knock on his door," McCullum wrote.
Just before the first test of that tour, it was announced Hesson had got the job despite McCullum's spruiking for Australian Matthew Mott.

"I was disappointed for Matthew, but felt ... Hesson would bring skills and structure that would support Ross much better than Wrighty's approach."

New Zealand's tour didn't improve with the news from home. They were slaughtered in the two tests by a weak West Indian side.

"By that time, the team was on the verge of imploding," McCullum writes. "Players had got to the point where they just didn't care any more. It became about self-preservation. The captain and coach were completely uninspiring."

McCullum acknowledged that Wright's failings as coach put too much pressure on his teammate but said Taylor - who he said had been an excellent vice-captain - needed to know that captaincy was about more than scoring a truckload of runs and retiring to your room.

He suspects the news that his old friend had been appointed coach probably forced Taylor more into his shell, though he still felt Hesson's structures and organisational ability could bring the best out of Taylor's leadership.

THE COUP

McCullum has described the manoeuvrings that saw him take over from the dumped Ross Taylor as national cricket captain as "The Coup that Wasn't".

McCullum writes that the cracks on the disastrous 2012 tour to the West Indies widened into rifts in India and Sri Lanka a short time later.

Part of the problem, he asserted, was Taylor's failure to embrace Hesson as coach.

"It seemed to me that right from the start, Ross was suspicious of Hess's motives. So instead of taking Hess on his merits, Ross seemed already closed to him."

Hesson would hold meetings on that tour, trying to get a sense of the direction the team wanted to go into and give Taylor a forum where he could stamp his brand on the team.

"Ross would say nothing. Not a word. What the hell was he thinking? I had no idea. Ross is a reasonably trusting guy in most circumstances, so someone must have been telling him to watch his back."

McCullum says for the first time he felt in a predicament. Senior players were coming to him to ask Taylor to give them more direction.

"I didn't want to be their messenger because I didn't want Ross to feel as if he was being ganged up on ... if anything Hesson's appointment worsened that situation for me.

"I got caught in the middle of a situation of a captain who wouldn't talk to his coach or his team."

By this stage they had failed miserably at the World T20 champs in Sri Lanka and stayed on for a full tour. McCullum was at personal breaking point. The Black Caps were a fully "dysfunctional family" and McCullum needed an outlet for his frustrations.

In Sri Lanka, McCullum used his mental conditioning coach Kerry Schwalger to vent via email.

McCullum thought he was safe to use Schwalger as a sounding-off board because they were confidential communications. Those messages would later be the basis of an injunction as Chris Cairns sought to use them to discredit McCullum's character.

In a meeting before the first test Hesson again gave the senior players an opportunity to forge a direction.

"Ross said very little and seemed disengaged from it all," McCullum writes. "Maybe it was at this point Hesson lost faith in Ross. I'm not sure; Hesson wasn't confiding in me but he's not that hard to read ... I could see that he was fed up with Ross."

Humiliation in the first test seemed to confirm that the Black Caps had reached their nadir.

"The atmosphere in the changing room after that loss at Galle was awful, and I picked up on a fair bit of animosity towards Ross. The team was finally imploding. I decided things had gone far enough and asked Ross to come into the dunnies out the back with me.

"I said to him, 'This is your effin' team, mate. You need to grab it by the scruff of the neck and I will help you along the way, otherwise we're going to lose our way completely.'

"Later, it transpired that the horse had already bolted."

Taylor had been told four days before the Galle test, in that infamous meeting between him Hesson, manager Mike Sandle and assistant Bob Carter, that he would be relieved of the captaincy. There is conjecture about whether it was for the short forms or everything, but Taylor understood it to be the lot.

The Black Caps, thanks largely to a magnificent century and half-century double from Taylor, won the second test.

The floodgates of public opinion were about to open.

THE AFTERMATH

The invective Brendon McCullum received in the wake of his elevation to test captaincy above Ross Taylor almost caused him to walk away from the international game.

McCullum has revisited the fraught days when the "captaincy coup" was the only talk in town In Declared, his biography.

Having been destroyed in his first series as captain in South Africa, including winning the toss and being bowled out for 45 at Cape Town, McCullum had been skipper for a year and 10 tests without a victory after rain prevented them beating the West Indies in Dunedin. He'd had enough.

It didn't help, McCullum wrote, that their best batsman wasn't in South Africa.
"If you looked at it objectively, his decision not to come on the South African tour was quite bizarre, and really only explicable in terms of people fuelling his emotions behind the scenes."

Wife Ellissa makes him sit in a café in Wellington prior to the second test against the West Indies and write down a list of pros and cons about walking away.

"The level of personal abuse I've copped since taking over as captain from Ross is on a whole different plane from anything else I've seen in New Zealand sport," he wrote.

New Zealand returned from South Africa and played a galvanising home series against England, but things turned to custard away from home, with the team, and McCullum in particular, struggling badly in England, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.

"My personal stats were abysmal. I knew that if I couldn't turn [it] around quickly, I'd be next for the chop - both in terms of captaincy and holding my place in the batting line-up. And deservedly so."

The West Indies were next up. McCullum scored a ton, Taylor a double-ton and although rain ruined the first test, they started winning.

The worst times - until the Chris Cairns trial at least - were over. Thoughts of retirement were, temporarily, shelved.

- NZ Herald

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