Tuesday, March 21

‘Undermined’: Ross Taylor lifts the lid on the ‘ambush’ that cost him the Black Caps captaincy

Ross Taylor claims he felt “undermined” before being sacked as Black Caps captain and has hit out at the roles he felt Brendon McCullum and coach Mike Hesson played in his removal.

In an explosive, compelling new autobiography – Ross Taylor Black & White – Taylor also claimed New Zealand Cricket chief executive David White reneged on a promise to consult him before Hesson was appointed coach.

Taylor also delivers a broadside to teammates Jacob Oram and Kyle Mills, saying he could hear players “down the back of the bus talking really loudly to people back home in New Zealand … about me and the support staff’ on a tour to the West Indies in 2012.

He felt it became clear on that tour that some players were angling for McCullum to take over as captain.

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Taylor “argued for [McCullum’s] inclusion’’ in the test team in the Windies, “not because I thought he deserved to be there – he was struggling with his batting – but because the clique was getting out of control. I figured they’d go even more rogue if he was left out.’’

Dropping Mills for the fourth ODI in Saint Kitts was “probably the last straw’’, Taylor wrote.

He overheard Oram – a longtime Central Districts teammate and “someone I respected’’ tell Mills “I told you those f…kers were going to drop you’’.

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The book revealed NZC’s high performance director John Buchanan and selector Kim Littlejohn – both Australians – were supportive of Taylor, but the skipper felt he had lost “one of my biggest allies’’ when John Wright quit as Black Caps coach.


Since debuting as a fresh-faced 22-year-old in 2006, Luteru Ross Taylor became one of the Black Caps’ greatest ever batters before retiring in 2022.

Taylor said White told him in the West Indies that he would be consulted before the new coach was appointed, but “the extent of my involvement was hearing that the next coach would be a Kiwi’’.

He felt previous captains “would have had a massive say’’ in a coaching appointment, and “things like that made me think I wasn’t valued at all’’.

Buchanan claimed Hesson told him early in his tenure that “one of the first things he wanted to do was change the captain’’.

Littlejohn said in the book: “Mike Hesson was very much a Brendon McCullum supporter and it was all about Brendon. I don’t think Ross was ever given the chance to be able to grow into the role.’’

Hesson was appointed in July 2012 and soon had a “getting acquainted’’ phone conversation with Taylor, who was assured it was confidential.

The skipper decided to “address the elephant in the room’’, quizzing Hesson about how his close relationship with “fellow Dunedin-ite’’ McCullum was going to affect the team.

Black Caps coach Mike Hesson facing questions in 2012 about Ross Taylor’s place in the team.

Kirk Hargreaves/Stuff

Black Caps coach Mike Hesson facing questions in 2012 about Ross Taylor’s place in the team.

“Judging by his tone of voice, he was taken aback, it was as if the issue had never occurred to him, which I found strange.

“Twenty-four hours later … Hess did a TV interview in which he revealed that I’d asked him about his relationship with Brendon.’’

After the meeting, Taylor told his father “I won’t be captain in a year’s time’’.

Taylor did consider resigning, but decided to stay on, but he said speculation intensified every time Hess “squandered an opportunity’’ to endorse him as captain.

He felt “they were pushing me into a corner’’ in the hope he would “see my position was hopeless and resign’’, but he didn’t want to have been “seen as tossing it in and leaving the team in the lurch’’ on the eve of the October 2012 tour to Sri Lanka.

On tour, “communication dried up’’ between Hesson and Taylor.

Taylor was “getting frustrated with the lack of support’’ and four days before the first test in Galle, he asked Hesson: “Aren’t we supposed to meet once a week? He said we’d meet that afternoon.’’

Fifteen minutes before the meeting, batting coach Bob Carter “dropped a few hints that I was walking into an ambush’’, but Taylor “didn’t pick up on them.”

Later, “Hess, Bob and (manager) Mike Sandle came to my room. ‘It would be remiss of me’, said Hess, ‘not to say what’s really going on. There are leaders and there are followers, and I think you are a follower’. There are senior players in the team who don’t want you as captain. It’s my job to make sure this team has a strong captain and you’re not a strong captain.’’

Taylor said Sandle took over, claiming Taylor had “let myself down with some of my behaviour.”

“I’d kicked a rubbish bin outside a dressing room, sending rubbish everywhere, so fair enough to pull me up on that. It wasn’t in public view and I did pick up the rubbish and put it back in the bin. He also suggested I’d abused spectators and smashed up dressing rooms. It was all bullshit, self-serving exaggerations of very minor incidents.’’

Taylor said he felt “blindsided’’ and in “state of shock’’ after Hesson’s comments.

He spoke with his mental skills advisor – current All Blacks co-manager Gilbert Enoka – who told him: “A good leader wouldn’t quit. Make them push you.’’

Next morning, Hesson knocked on Taylor’s door, entered and said: “Ross, you can think I’m a c…, but it’s what I believe in’’ and said he was going to recommend to Buchanan “that we have a new captain for South Africa.”

Taylor made it clear that he would not resign.

Brendon McCullum while captaining the Black Caps in South Africa in 2013.

Gallo Images/Getty Images

Brendon McCullum while captaining the Black Caps in South Africa in 2013.

Later, training in Galle, he said McCullum “pulled me aside’’ and asked: “Are you alright mate, you don’t seem the same – you’re very standoffish with me’’.

Taylor wrote that McCullum said “I don’t know what’s going on with you and Hesson but I back you 100 per cent. I don’t want the captaincy…’’

Buchanan arrived in Sri Lanka and told Taylor he was going to recommend he stay on as captain. He said: “I think you’re doing a good job; I disagree with all this stuff.’’

Taylor told Buchanan about his conversation with McCullum. Buchanan was “bemused because he’d discussed the captaincy ructions with Brendon’s advisor Stephen Fleming, just before coming to Sri Lanka and with Brendon himself on arrival.’’

Fleming allegedly told Buchanan he thought McCullum “should be the captain but didn’t think the timing was right or that it would be a good look, given Brendon’s relationship with Hess”.

Taylor wrote: “Brendon would later tell the media that he had no idea about what was happening around the captaincy until we got back to New Zealand.”

Taylor told his family he was losing the captaincy before the second test in Colombo, where he hit 142 and 74 and got the player of the match award as New Zealand won by 167 runs to square the series 1-1.

“Us winning, and me getting player of the match, was their worst nightmare.’’

Bob Carter, pictured while White Ferns national women’s team coach, allegedly told Mike Hesson he’d be “crucified’’ if he dumped Ross Taylor as captain after the Sri Lanka tour in 2012.

Joe Allison/Getty Images

Bob Carter, pictured while White Ferns national women’s team coach, allegedly told Mike Hesson he’d be “crucified’’ if he dumped Ross Taylor as captain after the Sri Lanka tour in 2012.

Taylor said Carter later told him that “he warned Hess that he’d be crucified if he dumped me’’.

Buchanan said he wrote to White to explain “everything that was going on’’ and how he disagreed with “what they were doing and the way they were going about it.’’

In the book, Buchanan described the captaincy switch as “just an ambush, incredibly clandestine’’.

Hesson later contacted Taylor to say he was going to recommend that he stay as test captain with McCullum taking over the ODI and T20 leadership roles.

It was the first Taylor had heard of “a split captaincy’’. He asked for a couple of days to think it over.

Just before a meeting with White, Taylor said “Brendon called to say I should take the test captaincy. It was hard to know where he was coming from: maybe there was an element of him not wanting the test captaincy and/or being able to say to the media that he’d tried to convince me to do it – by that stage they knew they had a PR problem.’’

In the end, Taylor turned down the offer and decided not to tour South Africa, and McCullum took over as captain for all three forms.

New Zealand Cricket chief executive David White.

Phil Walter/Getty Images

New Zealand Cricket chief executive David White.

Taylor felt “the [split] arrangement wouldn’t have lasted’’.

McCullum wrote in his 2016 autobiography that Taylor’s decision not to tour South Africa was “quite bizarre’’ and “the brutal truth is that no one is New Zealand captain as of right: you either do your job or you get dropped’’.

But Taylor wrote that “not for one minute” did he think he was captain as of right.

His beef was “more about the way it was done”, describing it as “a story that wouldn’t die”.

“There was the campaign, headed by former New Zealand batsman John Parker and involving a number of former captains and cricketing luminaries, that zeroed in on the captaincy issue as part of a wider critique of NZC. Brendon stopped that in its tracks by initiating defamation action.

“Brendon also sought and obtained an injunction to prevent publication of his email exchange… with his former mental skills coach Kerry Schwalger. I understand anyone who read the emails would have had no trouble realising why he went to such lengths to prevent them seeing the light of day.”

Ross Taylor and Brendon McCullum of New Zealand walk off after both scoring first-day centuries against the West Indies in Dunedin 2013.

Hannah Johnston/Getty Images

Ross Taylor and Brendon McCullum of New Zealand walk off after both scoring first-day centuries against the West Indies in Dunedin 2013.

Taylor later returned to play for the Black Caps under McCullum’s captaincy.

“I focused on my job, scoring runs, ticking off the goals Hogan [mentor Martin Crowe] had set for me. It made me very stats driven, but I’d like to think it benefited the team.’’

Under McCullum’s captaincy, he averaged 49.1.

Taylor acknowledged that “together, Hess and Brendon were a powerful force’’ and that his own relationship with Hesson improved after McCullum retired. “By the end of his stint, we got along OK’’.

“And, over time, things got better between me and Brendon.’’

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