sport

Taylor enjoying NZ return

Ross Taylor has always been a favourite with his home crowd, but never more so than since his spat with New Zealand coach Mike Hesson.

Whatever the whys and wherefores of Taylor's sacking as captain last year, and subsequent self-imposed exile from the Kiwis' tough tour of South Africa, there is no doubt who has the popular vote.

Taylor, who will turn 29 in the middle of next week's first Test against England in Dunedin, was cheered all the way to the crease before each of his innings on his return to the fold for the preceding Twenty20 and one-day international series.

There was little to rouse the crowd thereafter in his early forays, although a slow-burner return did culminate in a seventh ODI century - albeit in defeat - in Napier.

The middle-order batsman has been careful not to revisit his differences with management, in public at least.

Pushed, he has more than once described the mending of his relationship with Hesson as a "work in progress", while there has been nothing in the body language of either over the past three weeks to suggest they will allow lingering mistrust to become a distraction.

Taylor and his successor Brendon McCullum, meanwhile, appear to have happily resumed business as usual despite the reversal in their relative responsibility.

Controversy, and its consequences, could easily have driven a rift between two long-standing team-mates but they have been at pains to make it clear nothing of the sort has happened.

Taylor has had more pressing concerns to concentrate the mind, namely proving his worth again and making sure all that crowd adulation is not misplaced.

"Coming out in every game and getting a pretty amazing reception, it's not normal and you do put extra pressure on yourself, whether consciously or sub-consciously," he said.

"I think I did put a lot of pressure on myself.

"Every time you play international cricket, it's nice to be able to get up for it and having the crowd do that makes it even easier to get up for it, as long as you don't get too hyped.

"It is a nice feeling, and I guess the hundred was for all of the people who have supported me for the last little while."

It was not yet vintage Taylor at McLean Park, but it was an important innings nonetheless.

After a run of starts, but nothing more, he had a foothold again on a career which has so far yielded an average either side of 40 in Tests and ODIs and has made him a cornerstone of New Zealand's batting in all formats for the past five years.

But what of that day-to-day interaction with Hesson? Is it becoming any easier?

Taylor's words on a still vexed subject remain equivocal.

"He speaks to all the individuals. I haven't had a lot to talk with Hess about," he said.

"He comes and has the odd chat. Everything's going fine."

Happily, he appears more confident around his team-mates.

"The time I've been in the team, I've felt like I never left," said Taylor.

"Different aspects have changed but these are still the same team-mates I've played with, and I hope I can score a few more runs for them and win a few more games for New Zealand."

With that century under his belt too, Taylor can be at ease with himself again.

"There's a lot of emotions going through your mind and body," he said.

"Obviously with what's gone on, it was nice to know that I can still bat.

"I didn't feel great out there, but it's even more satisfying to know that you can still score runs when you don't feel quite 100 per cent."

He will take nothing for granted, however, when he walks out in his 44th Test at the start of a series most predict England will dominate.

More than ever, after those limited-overs series defeats in which only Taylor and still more so McCullum kept the hosts competitive with the bat, he will have to deal with the weight of expectation.

"Any time you're a batsman, you've got to be realistic and you think sometimes maybe you're just past it," said Taylor.

"I hope, at 28, I'm not."

Taylor, it seems, speaks - as well as bats - for a nation.