Ross Taylor lashes out at Brendon McCullum and Mike Hesson in autobiography
In his newly released autobiography, “Black & White”, Ross Taylor has pressed on a number of controversial subjects during his time with the New Zealand international team, including that of his removal as captain back in 2012.
Taylor lashed out at Brendon McCullum, who succeeded him in the role and then coach Mike Hesson for playing a part in ending his captaincy stint. He went on to reveal that the dressing room environment suggested that some players were angling for McCullum to take over as the skipper, while also taking a dig at New Zealand Cricket chief executive David White, for not consulting him for Hesson’s appointment as promised earlier.
Taylor led New Zealand in 14 Tests, 20 ODIs and 13 T20Is, most of which came around the 2011-2012 season, following Daniel Vettori stepping down from the role.
The former middle-order batter revisited the tough times from the 2012 tour of the West Indies, wherein the Blackcaps were beaten 2-0 in T20Is, 4-1 in ODIs and 1-0 in the two-match Test series.
As stated in the book, 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.’’
Taylor had dropped seamer Kyle Mills from the fourth ODI in St. Kitts, which he felt was “probably the last straw’’. He overheard all-rounder Jacob Oram, also a longtime Central Districts teammate and “someone I respected’’ tell Mills “I told you those f...kers were going to drop you’’.
Taylor stated that New Zealand Cricket’s high performance director John Buchanan and selector Kim Littlejohn - both Australians - were supportive of him, but the resignation of John Wright from the head coach role made him feel that he had lost “one of my biggest allies’’.
Taylor further revealed that White had 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 that Hesson had made it clear quite early into his tenure that “one of the first things he wanted to do was change the captain’’.
Littlejohn added 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, ahead of the team’s tour to India, and soon had a “getting acquainted’’ phone conversation with Taylor, which the latter assured would be confidential.
Taylor decided to “address the elephant in the room’’, questioning Hesson about how his close relationship with “fellow Dunedin-ite’’ McCullum was going to affect 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.’’
Taylor would tell his father “I won’t be captain in a year’s time’’ after the meeting. He felt that “they were pushing me into a corner’’ in the hope he would “see my position was hopeless and resign’’.
The ''communication dried up’’ between Hesson and Taylor on the Sri Lanka tour later that year, with the latter “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.’’
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.’
“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 felt “blindsided’’ and in “state of shock’’ after Hesson’s comments. Gilbert Enoka, his mental skills advisor would tell him: “A good leader wouldn’t quit. Make them push you.’’
Next morning, Hesson told Taylor: “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 however, made it clear that he won’t resign.
In a training session in Galle later, McCullum asked Taylor, as the latter reveals, “Are you alright mate, you don’t seem the same - you’re very standoffish with me. 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 complimented Taylor on arrival in Sri Lanka, saying “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 that he thought “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 would score 142 and 74 in a Player of the Match performance in a 167-run series-levelling win in the second Test in Colombo.
“Us winning, and me getting player of the match, was their worst nightmare.’’
Taylor would be later contacted by Hesson, who recommended him to stay as the Test captain and pass over the role in the other two formats. Taylor asked for a couple of days' time to think of the “split captaincy” idea.
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.’’
Eventually, Taylor turned down the offer and decided not to tour South Africa, and McCullum took over as captain for all three forms.
He felt that “the [split] arrangement wouldn’t have lasted’’.
“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.”
Taylor would return to play for New Zealand under McCullum, with the latter emerging as one of the country's most dynamic captains during his full time stint in the mid 2010s. Taylor excelled on the batting front during the time across formats, with both players playing their part in New Zealand’s first ever run to a Cricket World Cup final in 2015.
“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.’’
Taylor acknowledged that “together, Hess and Brendon were a powerful force’’ and that his own relationship with Hesson improved after McCullum retired in 2016. “By the end of his stint, we got along OK’’.
“And, over time, things got better between me and Brendon.’’
Taylor hit the winning runs in the ICC Test Championship 2021 final against India, and bid farewell to the game in April earlier this year, finishing New Zealand’s highest run-scorer (18,199) and the country’s most capped player (450) across formats.