Archive for November, 2011

Presenting the Kiwi Captain: Ross Taylor

Presenting the second in the Black Cap series…Ross Taylor, the Captain of the N.Z Cricket team sits down for an interview where he talks about being new at Captaincy, the baggage that come with it, his batting and every thing Cricket.

Ross Taylor: The Plunderer at Kandy

 

You are filling is some big boots, following in the footsteps of the likes of Dan, Stephen Fleming…your thoughts on that and how you intend to keep the flame going?

I guess I have never thought of it that way. Following Dan you would always be literally filling in some big boots! But yes New Zealand has been fortunate enough to have a tradition of great Cricket Captains. At the end of your career you would always want to look back and think that you had a successful run at it, and maybe even finish as one of the country’s all time great Cricketers but I am a long way from that and intend to learn a lot while at the job.

You played under both of them, any favorites? Can I put you on the spot and ask which one you think was better?

It’s hard to do that with captaincy, especially when both of them have been such great captains. I played a little under Stephen and he was regarded as one of the great Captains at the time. Tactically very strong and a really good Cricketing brain, but most of my career I played under Vettori and he borrowed a lot from Fleming but has his own unique style as well. Really close to the players and an excellent man manager. They were both good captains in their own right.

 You have had a sniff of Captaincy now. How has it affected your personal game? Some great players, Sachin Tendulkar is the first one who jumps to mind in this regard, have failed to juggle their personal game and the act of leading the side. Have you felt any different when at the crease?

I guess a little bit but not that much so far. That is something I have learnt a lot from Dan. He was the best at leading the side from the front and getting the best out of himself while captaining and I want to follow him in this regard. Want to keep batting the way I have over the last few years and keep putting up the scores. I have been originally put in the side to score as a batsman and that’s my aim when at the crease. It is something I think that will also ease the pressures of captaincy and make the process of learning the tactical side of it more comfortable.

I wanted to talk about the World Cup clash against Pakistan a little…best Birthday ever?

 Definitely the best birthday gift ever, but I have got to thank Kamran Akmal for that though. I wasn’t high on confidence running into that game and the scores were a bit low as well. It just shows how much a couple of balls can change the way you play this game. Had a bit of luck go my way and ran into a bit of form. That is definitely the way I look at that match, luck was on my side and I started to time the ball well and took a lot of confidence from the match on to the rest of the tournament. Felt a completely different batsman following the game against Pakistan and that’s just how this sport of ours is.

How big were you seeing the ball and how much of it was bad bowling?

When you have been out there for a hundred balls or so full tosses become a bit easier to spot. And by that time the ball had started to come on nicely to the bat. It was a shortish boundary the end Razzaq and Shoaib were bowling from and I was backing myself to clear it even if I got a little bit of the ball on to the bat.

 

The tour of Australia is going to pose a pretty stern test for the Black Caps. How do you see the team shaping up?

 Oh we have a few players coming back from injury ready to knock down the doors. Playing Australia, our old rivals …I guess we don’t need any more motivation than that…. to do better in their own back yards. We proved in Zimbabwe that we are a side gelling well together but having said that we have a lot to improve on, and with some of our main guys coming back into the fold I can definitely see us putting the pressure on Australia, hopefully take it to the fifth day and any thing can happen from there.

 

Talking about the fifth day, what thoughts were running through your head on the last day of the Test against Zimbabwe? Did things get a bit panicky when the batsmen seemed to be on top and cruising home at one stage?

 No you always try to stay ahead of the game and you keep trying different things. When they come off you look like a genius and when they don’t it doesn’t look that great. Going into the fifth day we were pretty confident, but the Zimbabwean batsmen came at us pretty hard, and credit to them for that. At the same time picking up seven wickets in a session of a test match though against any opposition is no mean feat and we should take away a lot from that performance, especially the way Vettori and Doug Bracewell bowled. They will take a lot of confidence from that into Australia.

 

Your thoughts on the novel experimental policies being applied by NZC recently, namely their selection methods are being considered by some as being regimental…

 I guess there will always be people questioning any policy you apply so I don’t see that as much of an issue. At the end of the day if you are picking the right players and getting the best out of them, disregarding any external issues, then the job is getting done and that is what the main concern should be. The team culture comes into it a little bit, and the senior player group has a lot bigger part to play after the selection gets done.

How much of a say do you have in the selection?

Oh I have a little say, not a big say or any thing like that.

 

As a batsman you are a very strong puller and cutter of the ball, very Australian traits. What type of wickets do you like playing on?

 Yea I don’t mind playing on surfaces with a bit of bounce and playing the back foot shots, but at the end of the day it’s all about scoring runs and adapting to any sort of conditions to pile up the scores. Conditions in Australia are going to be vastly different from what we faced in Zimbabwe but that is just one of the challenges of modern day Cricket and it is a challenge I am looking forward to.

Suppose you are being offered a great opening batsman or a tear away fast bowler which would you pick?

 Oh we already have good opening batsman so I’ll take the fast bowler.

N.Z Cricketers have taken a liking to t20, where do your priorities lie and what should the balance be like?

Test Cricket is definitely the ultimate form of the game and rate it higher than any other form. In terms of balance I don’t think they have figured one out that is right so far. We have a world ranking now and the aim is to be number one in that and win the World Cup but Test Cricket has been around much longer than t20, which is still young, and ODIs, which are about 30 years old. It is the ultimate test of a cricketers ability and a right gauge to judge yourself against the Cricketers from the past.

Your idols growing up as a young batsman?

Sachin Tendulkar and Mark Waugh growing up. I wouldn’t say I emulated them as I had my own unique style and couldn’t ever bat as gracefully as them. Of the current Cricketers Sachin is still there, but Rahul Dravid is someone who I have developed a great admiration for playing with him at Bangalore and getting to pick his brains. Certainly one of the batsmen playing currently I have great respect for.

Pakistani players you have liked playing against?

 Shahid Afridi I have enjoyed playing with on the park. Just his all round game and how goes about it holds a lot of appeal and admire him for that. Muhammad Yousuf and Younis Khan are two of the most consistent in World Cricket let alone Pakistan Cricket and I like watching them bat.

Maori Cricketers and Polynesians are more rare in Cricket than compared to other sports, for example, Rugby in New Zealand. Any special reason for that?

 They are an untapped market and have not been exposed to Cricket to the same extent they have been in other sports. You will see them playing softball a lot and I think if they are given a chance and are exposed to it more you will definitely see more of them coming through the ranks. We already see some results due to the exposure in recent years and I think t20 is a great avenue to get the Maoris and Polynesian populations involved in Cricket more.

Is it Cricket 24/7 now that you are married to a professional Cricketer? And how much of the captaincy is coming from your better half ?

Cricket has always been a big part of my life and it certainly is right now. As far as captaincy is concerned I am afraid that’s left all to me, but yes can’t wait to keep leading the side and look forward to more success during the course of the coming season.

Originally for Pakpassion.net

The Professor of Cricket: Daniel Vettori

The Black Caps recently held a promotional media event in Auckland to launch the HRV Cup this year and I had the pleasure of meeting some of them and holding interviews for Pakpassion. Here I bring to you the first in the series, a chat with Daniel Vettori on his career as a player, the nuances of captaincy, spin bowling and his thoughts on N.Z Cricket in general.

Vettori one of the sharpest Cricketing brains going around

How much of your style of captaincy and the way you run the team did you take from Stephen Fleming?

Probably hundred percent of it I would say. He was in charge of the side through out most of my career, I think except for four test matches under Lee Germon and Dion Nash my entire career was based under him.  So he was the major influence on my style of captaincy and I learnt so much from him. Particularly the trait of remaining as calm as possible out in the middle, because I think people feed of that and if you tend to be irrational or up or down emotionally it becomes tough for your side to follow you.

Who were your heroes growing up as a kid?

Sir Richard definitely, watching him bowl in the Brisbane Test where he took nine wickets and just seeing him bowl so well in general….Steve Waugh I think even as a young guy growing up I liked watching him play. It changes a bit when you start playing guys who were your idols when you were young but those two when I was growing up.

What are the traits, in your opinion, young captains need to develop to be successful at leading?

I think the most important thing is developing a rapport with your players. They follow you because of your performance and more importantly the way you lead the side. I think captains generally are good players, or you would not be put in a position of that much responsibility so your performance tends to take care of itself if you are mentally strong and don’t let the pressures that come with the job get to you. So it is developing an understanding and empathy of the way your players work that is key to the job.

How much of it is knowing the tactics of the game?

Well I think tactics come to you as the game unfolds. It is difficult to go out on the park with a rigid plan in mind because the game can change so quickly. So you have to be adaptable, going in with little ideas and allowing yourself room to change. Also knowing your players gives you the ability to know what you can get out of them and what each of them can provide you in certain situations.

 Can you walk me through the World Cup Quarter Final game against S.A? Any special instance that turned it for you and you think made it possible for you to win the game?

 You are always thinking you are going to do something but it hardly ever goes according to plan. I think we put a total on the board that we thought was competitive, and the way Jesse and Ross played gave us that opportunity but it was still going to be very tough from there. We probably never believed till we ran De Villiers out because he is such a fine player and because of how well he has done for them in the past in similar situations, so that is some thing that galvanized the team and lead us on.

And Guptill’s fielding effort…..?

He was amazing in the field, but that is some thing you count on as there are very few guys who can change the course of a game through their fielding and we are lucky to have him.

N.Z Captains tend to be great improvisers and be the most innovative Captains of their time, but when it comes to batting and bowling there is a feeling the play is too by the book. Do you think there is a sense of over coaching at the grass root level?

 No I don’t think that’s generally true. I think there are not that many great coaches floating around to begin with and the guys growing up play the game for the love of the sport and to be in the company of others who enjoy the game as much as they do. And that’s the most important part of it, to love the sport; the coaching bit only comes in later when it becomes more of a necessity.

 

N.Z Cricket manages to perform consistently, especially at the World Stage but lacks that final push on most occasions. You think there is a reason for that?

 There are different ways you can look at that. I personally choose to admire how much N.Z Cricket has been able to achieve over the years representing a population of only four million compared to say your Indias (with a billion) and Pakistans (with 180 million). You can step back and be proud of what we have achieved especially in World Cup tournaments over the last 30 years. Of course at the same time there is a huge expectation with in the country and people who follow the game to do better and I think creating a balance between those two is the hardest bit.

Test Cricket or T20?

 I love Test Cricket, it is the game I grew up on and love playing and being involved in. The decision I made to stick to Test Cricket is one of the best ones I made and will stick with that as long as I can. Hopefully Test Cricket remains the integral part of the Cricketing landscape.

You became quite a handy lower middle order bat late in your career? How did you manage that transformation ?

 I wasn’t happy with my performance and what I was delivering as a batsman and knew I could do much better. Spent a lot of time and effort with Ross the assistant coach of the team a while back and Stephen Fleming, both of us being tall left handers I tried to take a leaf out of his book. But most of all it was the mental application. Being an aggressive batsman and dragging that out to as long as possible was the biggest switch in my opinion.

Growing up as a spinner who did you aspire to….

 John Bracewell when I was really young. I was a medium pacer till I was fifteen so I guess watching spinners wasn’t top of my priority list. Then Shane Warne, I think any spinner my age would have aspired to him growing up.

You are famous for the drift you get and your arm ball? Is that something that comes naturally or something you have developed over the years working hard on it?

I would say reasonably naturally. I think the drift particularly that’s just my action and the way I release the ball. And the arm ball depends on the conditions on the day, if it’s swinging it’s fine and if it’s not then it becomes difficult at times…hopefully it is natural because I think most things that work well for players are those that come naturally to them.

You used to be a bigger turner of the ball. But later on your bowling depended much more on flight variation, deceiving and out thinking the batsmen. Was that a concentrated shift?

No I don’t think I was ever really a big turner of the ball. I think it’s a popular myth and misconception that has gained popularity due to the game against Australia where I took twelve wickets on a spinning wicket at Eden Park. That was just an excellent track for a spin bowler to bowl on, especially considering now as the pitches are not conducive for spin bowling in N.Z at all, short boundaries add to the misery and it’s a lot of hard work. I have always been an accurate bowler who tries to deceive batsmen with variations in pace and bounce and that’s just the way I’ve been through out my career.

You come of as some one who is a great student of the game. Is that true?

 I love the game and I enjoy following it. Maybe not a big reader of Cricket Literature but I know the game. Have a sense of the records and the great people who have played the game before us and appreciate the history of the game. And also know that there are many more greats who will follow in our footsteps and respect that sense of occasion immensely.

As a Captain what would be top of your wish list a tear away great fast bowler or a great genuine attacking opener?

I think you want to be greedy and want to have it all, but N.Z haven’t generally had a rich history of opening batsman with averages in fifties like say Austrlia or India so that’s some thing that’s always a draw. It’s hard to pick one and fortunately I am not Captain any more so I don’t have to worry about it.

If you had to do a brutal evaluation of your captaincy and pick out what you did best and what some of the regrets were, what would they be?

It’s hard to know I think because it is what it is in a lot of ways and you learn to deal with it. As a bowling captain I really enjoyed working with the bowlers and building a good rapport with the team in general, that’s some thing I did well and really enjoyed. In terms of regrets I think you will always be judged by your success in the long run and my win/loss ratio is not that great especially in tests so that is some thing I would have loved to improve because in the end that’s what people remember.

Some one who got on your nerve a lot?

I don’t know about getting on my nerve but I can tell you who was the hardest guy to bowl to was. Rahul Dravid is the best player of spin that I have come across, was always difficult to bowl to him and guys like Gichrist who can hit you out of the park at any time, it’s not getting on your nerve but definitely hard work.

Your favorite Pakistani Cricketer?

 Saqlain Mushtaq for sure, I used to love watching him bowl. Got to work with him over the last couple of years when he came over and helped the team. Not only from a bowling perspective but batting as well. He is a lovely man who imparted a lot of knowledge on us. Not only the way he played the game and how innovative and successful he was as a spin bowler but him as a person as well.

World Cup in three and a half year’s time in N.Z, you reckon you will be there for a last Hoorah!

Would definitely love to. I remember the 1992 World Cup as one of the great moments in the history of N.Z Sport and how I was swept up in it. The team did really well in the tournament as well and reached the semi-finals and I would love to be a part of something similar.

Originally for Pakpassion.net