30 Jan 2019

More of Ross Taylor please

8:02 am on 30 January 2019

Thank goodness for Ross Taylor.

Ross Taylor celebrates his 20th ODI century for the Black Caps.

Black Caps batsman Ross Taylor. Photo: Photosport

The volume and quality of the right-hander's runs are one thing, particularly given it's not long since the 34-year-old was being pensioned off as a white-ball cricketer.

Blokes such as Tom Bruce and Mark Chapman were getting games in the Black Caps' limited overs' side and Taylor looked in danger of becoming a test match-only cricketer.

Only Taylor didn't see it that way. He insisted that his desire to play Twenty20 and One-Day International cricket remained strong and then played so well that he couldn't be left out.

In the last 12 months he's not just been New Zealand's best ODI batsman, but damn near the world's.

That's all well and good, but the thing we really need to thank Taylor for is his frank assessment of this Black Caps side.

There's no fundamental disgrace in losing 50-over games to India. They're the world's best side and the short-priced favourites to win the Cricket World Cup in July.

New Zealand are, by comparison, very handy. Just maybe not as handy as many anticipated prior to going 3-0 down to India in their five-match ODI series.

"We just haven't been up to it, if we're brutally honest, with bat and ball,'' Taylor said, after game three in Mount Maunganui on Monday.

Authoritative, dispassionate cricket voices are becoming harder to find in New Zealand.

There just isn't the volume of journalists intimately covering the game anymore, beyond wittering away on Twitter about how sumptuous someone's cover drive is.

Then there are those attached to the Black Caps' broadcast partners, who can be compromised by their proximity.

At face value, having ex-coach Mike Hesson commentating games on television is a coup.

Armed with all sorts of institutional and personal information about the team, Hesson could offer genuine insight into why the players appear to be playing below their potential.

But, no.

Far better to keep the guys on side than say something that could be held against you at a later date.

The further disappointment is that Hesson can't instead point out where certain Indian players are weak and how the Black Caps plan to get them out.

After six years at the helm Mike Hesson is stepping down as Black Caps coach.

Mike Hesson has been a disappointment in the commentary box for Hamish Bidwell. Photo: Photosport

Hesson has an IPL coaching gig to look after and, like others, can't afford to stray too far from superlatives where the Indians are concerned.

Among the few Black Caps being subjected to scrutiny is batsman Colin Munro.

New Zealand's opening partnership of Munro and Martin Guptill is struggling.

They've not put on more than 35 in any of their last 14 bats, piling additional pressure on captain Kane Williamson and Taylor.

Among Williamson's many strengths is his body language at the crease. He might be battling, but invariably gives an impression that everything's going to plan.

Monday was an exception. By his own high standards, Williamson dropped his bundle, virtually giving his wicket away in the end.

In such an instance, it's easy to round on Munro. You can reel off the run of low scores he's had and say 'look what it's doing to the skipper'.

After all, no-one's really going to spare a thought for Munro.

He's got no media profile, no intimate connection to the sporting public. He's a bloke, by way of South Africa, who few people know anything about.

But he's also doing about as well as he can. Munro's just not that good a player and isn't capable of much more than he's shown in his 49 ODIs for New Zealand.

Guptill, on the other hand, is different. He could be doing better and will be held up in retirement as one of this country's better white-ball batsmen.

So which of Guptill and Munro are actually letting the side down most right now?

You could argue that, on the basis of talent and record, that it's Guptill by a mile.

Only he does have a media profile and strong connections to the host broadcaster - be a bit awkward if someone starting questioning his contribution to the side.

It's ironic that it's taken a player - in this case Taylor - to call New Zealand's performances for what they are.

* Hamish Bidwell is a contributor to Radio New Zealand. He has previously worked at The Northern Advocate, Gisborne Herald, Hawke's Bay Today, The Press, The Dominion Post and Stuff.