Ross Taylor says he found coach Mike Hesson's tips on how
to be a better leader "laughable".
In a frank interview - though he would not divulge what
suggestions Hesson gave him about his captaincy - Taylor gave
a sense of the loneliness of a cricket captain to whom few
people would talk.
As confidant, he seems only to have had Martin Guptill on
tour to talk to - even though his grandmother, who helped
raise him, had died during the cricket team's tour of Sri
Lanka. That was around the same time coach Hesson gave Taylor
his "not wanted" message.
As mentor, he had Martin Crowe - though Taylor felt guilty
about talking to Crowe during his cancer treatment.
Other than that, there was only Skype - the digital link back
home to his wife Victoria and 14-month-old daughter
Mackenzie. The solitary feeling was sharpest when he said
goodbye to his family and Skype was switched off at night.
That's true of any long cricket tour, never mind one with a
fierce captaincy debate raging and with the skipper feeling
that he was if not abandoned, then extremely isolated.
"That's the hardest thing," Taylor says in reference to the
loneliness of random hotel rooms. "I don't know how
cricketers did it [go on months-long tours] back in the day."
Taylor has dealt with his demotion in a dignified fashion but
it is clear he was crushed and struggled to cope. His angst
in Sri Lanka was exacerbated by the recent loss of his
grandmother and the toll of being away from family for much
of the year.
Taylor knew he was under the microscope before the end of
October's Champions League in South Africa.
"I knew it'd be tough from the outset [with Hesson]. I gave
him as much support as I could but it wasn't reciprocated. We
liaised during the Champions League. He wrote down a few
things for me to improve on, which were laughable, frankly."
Taylor won't elaborate but says: "I haven't done anything
wrong here. I look forward to playing with the team again but
it'll be a different relationship. I knew I had areas to work
on, like in communication, but I didn't get much support.
Instead, I organised a number of things myself, like chatting
to [psychologist] Gilbert Enoka. I thought that indicated I
was trying to be a better captain.
"I'm more disappointed in the process to be told four days
before the test series began [in Sri Lanka] that they didn't
want me as captain. I also wasn't consulted in the tour
review process by [NZC chairman Chris] Moller or [NZC chief
executive David] White. No one got hold of me. Having said
that, [NZC director of cricket] John Buchanan has been
outstanding to me during this process. He gets a lot of flak
but has been an amazing support.
"Martin Crowe's also been a mentor, especially seeing as he's
experienced a similar situation [back in 1993, when Ken
Rutherford eventually took the helm]. He's been great but I
feel bad because it's been during his cancer treatment. It
hasn't stopped me wanting to knock off his records though."
During a solemn chat, that's as close as Taylor comes to
exercising his characteristic dry humour. It is also an
indication he wants to return.
He felt compelled to confide in someone about the captaincy
situation. Guptill was his man.
"I don't want to go through that again," Taylor says. "But I
was determined during both tests not to tell anybody except
Martin. I didn't tell anyone else in the team until after the
He might have felt alone but Taylor's loss of the captaincy
has exploded the myth New Zealand cricket fans - and the
wider public - suffer from apathy. It has unleashed a barrage
of vitriol on the New Zealand Cricket team's management and
the sport's administrators.
Taylor has drawn a cult following; the public recognise a
fighter who has been hard done by after leading New Zealand
to their first away victory over Sri Lanka in 14 years. There
is sympathy for someone who has suffered at worst a cover-up
and at best a misunderstanding over the captaincy role
management saw for him.
Taylor is perhaps a victim of being early to the leadership,
usurping a job many saw as best suited for Brendon McCullum
after Daniel Vettori's abdication. Yet Taylor took the reins
and the public applauded as he led New Zealand to victory
with innings of 142 and 74 in Colombo and away from the
ignominy of a record-equalling sixth straight test defeat.
However, the damage had been done in the eyes of Hesson.
New Zealand is eighth in the world in tests and Twenty20s and
has slipped to a record low ninth in one-dayers, behind
Hesson deemed that change was required to break the cycle,
especially with world test No1 South Africa and No2 England
up next. Last month's win against Sri Lanka, last year's test
victory against Australia and the tied World T20 matches
against eventual finalists Sri Lanka and the West Indies
could not balance calamitous series losses to South Africa,
India and the West Indies.
Taylor has compensated by opting out of the tour to South
Africa which has seen him accused in some quarters of
"throwing his toys" because he didn't get what he wanted.
"It was a hard decision. The main thing was I couldn't give
100 per cent against the No1 in the world," Taylor says.
"That's not good enough but the public support I've received
has been humbling. I'm still left with a raw feeling. It's
fresh in the mind, but a few weeks off to recharge and
refresh will hopefully see me right for England.
"At least I can take Mackenzie to the park and be a normal
dad enjoying summer," says Taylor.
- By Andrew Alderson