Forget loyalty, knives were out for Taylor

BACK IN ACTION: Ross Taylor is expected to turn out for his province Central Districts in the New Year.
BACK IN ACTION: Ross Taylor is expected to turn out for his province Central Districts in the New Year.

Wilson Whineray was a lonely man standing in the South African sunshine. His 1960 All Blacks had not scored a point in the first test. Whineray was barely 25 and his two years of captaincy had proved a lonely experience.

The All Blacks managers came over for a chat. Was Whineray really up to the job? A considerate discussion took place, a vote was taken and Whineray stayed in command.

"That's the way I'd have voted," said Ian Clarke, the man who would have taken Whineray's place.


And the rest really is history.

It is just a few weeks since Whineray died, but it is hard not to wonder what the great man would have made of New Zealand Cricket's treatment of Ross Taylor.

How did it come about that a decent, "hard-working role model for our community" - those are the words of Tino Pereira, chairman of the Pacific Advisory Group - could have more cutlery in the back of his white cricket shirt than Julius Caesar had knives in his toga.

Coach Mike Hesson's role in Taylor's downfall should make his own position untenable.

On November 13 Hesson knocked on the door of Taylor's hotel room. He was accompanied by the team manager and assistant coach.

Taylor says: "They all came into my room and pretty much said that I wasn't good enough to captain the team. I was stunned."

You might just about credit this conversation at the end of the tour, but this was four days before the first test against Sri Lanka. No wonder the Black Caps were smashed. The coach had completely undermined his leader.

By the second test, Taylor had gathered his anger and used it as a force for the good of the team. He batted New Zealand to victory, as he has done before, and did well not to hit Hesson, when the coach wanted to be part of the victory celebration.

According to Hesson, he had only wanted Taylor to step down as the team's one-day leader. But Taylor does not believe this retrospective spin and nor does most of New Zealand, judging by the online comments.

Taylor has also revealed that Hesson favoured Nathan McCullum ahead of Kane Williamson as standby vice-captain.

This is revealingly parochial. Williamson was Taylor's choice, quite rightly.

The story of Whineray or Richie McCaw, or Graeme Smith in modern cricket, says a great deal for the development of young captains.

The buck can't stop with Hesson, however. He is just the end of the current timeline. The start is when Chris Moller became chairman of New Zealand cricket in August, 2010.

Since coming into the role Moller has overseen the appointment of a coach (Wright) who couldn't work with his director of cricket (Buchanan), he has lost a chief executive (Justin Vaughan) and he has allowed a new coach to come in (Hesson) who sabotaged his captain.

That captain was described, on Moller's watch, as the outcome of a "robust" selection process and "the right man for the job". It's risible.

It has also been remarked that Hesson was chosen by a panel that included Stephen Fleming, the manager and business partner of Brendon McCullum.

That is a grotesque conflict of interest that is all too common in the incestuous world of New Zealand cricket. Moller should take responsibility for this shambles.

He has overseen an unstable period of intrigue and treachery. He has also left the national captain spinning in the breeze, not even bothering to consult Taylor, according to the sacked captain, when conducting a review of the recent tour.

There has been much sympathy for McCullum since his appointment, but I am not sure why. It is hard to believe that Hesson had not discussed Taylor's captaincy with his old Otago mucker.

"Loyal" is such an important word in the New Zealand vocabulary that they wrote a song about it. McCullum could have refused the captaincy, saying that he was loyal to Taylor.

As could the next man and the next - "I am Spartacus," they could have said. Instead up went the cry, "I am Brutus".

There was one supreme reason why Taylor was captain, and it mattered to the Aussie in Buchanan. Taylor alone was sure of his place in the team. The same cannot be said of McCullum.

He does not average above 36 in any form of cricket and against the top test sides McCullum's batting record is appalling. He has only got a ton against Australia and India, and even then his average against Australia is 25.85.

McCullum averages 27.38 against South Africa, but that may look good to Hesson who got into the Otago second team with an average of 13.

Williamson has yet to work out spin, but at least he has shown some class against the South African quicks.

Taylor is New Zealand's only truly test class batsman with an average of 43. Everyone else averages below 36. Compare that to South Africa who have five blokes who average 49 and above.

Given what he had to work with, Taylor's record as New Zealand's captain is, like the man, pretty decent.

But it wasn't enough to save him. The knives were out. Whatever happened to loyalty?

New Zealand Cricket has shamed us all.