• England in New Zealand 2012-13

Hadlee: England must not underestimate New Zealand

Andrew McGlashan
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The reintegration of Ross Taylor is a key issue for New Zealand © Getty Images
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Sir Richard Hadlee has warned England not to expect an easy tour of New Zealand, despite the country's current problems.

New Zealand endured struggles in both Test and one-day cricket in recent months, as off-the-field disruptions - coupled with a lack of strength-in-depth - have seen the side fail to find form on a consistent basis in the international arena.

England will be hoping to take advantage when they arrive in the country for Twenty20, ODI and Test matches - but Hadlee has warned Alastair Cook and company not to take anything for granted.

"We certainly have players capable of causing a shock and although our tag has always been that of underdog, that has probably not been a bad place to come from," Hadlee said. "England ought to be wary of that. And if they make too many mistakes, we have the players to take advantage of that.

"Yes, the tourists go in as favourites, but New Zealand can cause a surprise."

In addition, Hadlee has questioned Ross Taylor's response to his sacking as New Zealand captain and believes he should have played on after the fall-out - rather than take time away from the game.

Taylor, who was relieved of the captaincy after the Sri Lanka tour despite drawing the Test series 1-1, opted out of the following trip to South Africa saying he needed a break from the international game. He will return to the New Zealand side for the Twenty20 series against England which starts on Saturday and is also in the one-day squad.

Barring any dramatic change in events, he will resume his Test career next month.

In Taylor's absence, New Zealand were crushed in the Tests against South Africa, including being bowled out for 45 in Cape Town, and also lost the Twenty20 series, although they fought back impressively to take the one-day contest.

Hadlee, while sympathising with the poor handling of the situation, would have preferred to see Taylor move on quickly from losing the leadership and return to the ranks immediately.

"I find it very interesting how Taylor reacted. In some ways I'm a little disappointed that Taylor decided to exile himself for a period of time," Hadlee told ESPNcricinfo. "If you fall off the horse you get back on it, and I can't imagine an All Black rugby player who was captain then was replaced not make himself available to play again as soon as possible.

"Clearly Taylor had been affected in some way and needed to get his mind right. It was his call, but I'm not sure it was good thing because when he gets back into the side it's going to be quite an uneasy period for him, and other team-mates, knowing that he walked away."

Hadlee, though, added his voice to those unimpressed by the handling of the whole situation, which saw Mike Hesson, the New Zealand coach, tell Taylor before the Test series in Sri Lanka he wanted a change of captain but, it later emerged, only in the limited-overs formats. Taylor has recently met with Hesson for the first time since losing his position and is ready to move on, though he admitted that the relationship will take time to develop.

"There were clearly mixed messages, which have been well documented," Hadlee said. "Taylor had clearly been hurt and offended, perhaps not so much by the decision but how it came about because it was done before the first Test. That decision should have been made in the review after the tour."

Hadlee would have been comfortable if New Zealand had gone down the split-captaincy route now used by England, Australia, South Africa, Sri Lanka and Pakistan. But, despite the circumstances of the change, he sees Brendon McCullum as someone with the right qualities to lead New Zealand and does not think he should be judged too harshly on the Test performances.

"At the moment Brendon McCullum is doing all forms and clearly struggling in the Test team, but I think that is more to do with resources available rather than issues with him personally," he said. "He has shown his true colours, especially as a leader, in the one-day format so that is pretty encouraging."

Of greater concern for McCullum, according to Hadlee, is that he works out what sort of batsman he wants to be in the longer format. After being elevated to opener, partly due to the lack of other options as much as his suitability for the position, he has largely shelved his natural attacking game to try and set a more cautious tone for his team-mates but that may not be making best use of his ability.

"The big problem Brendon is facing at the moment is how he, himself, plays the game as a batsman. Does he open or drop down the order? Does he play aggressively, take high risks, which if he fails can set a bad example or take a more circumspect role that goes against his instincts? He's caught in between with how he should play but that is what the selectors have left the left him with."

Although McCullum will have Taylor back to boost his batting order against England, another of New Zealand's most destructive players remains unavailable. Jesse Ryder, who has not played for New Zealand since being dropped for disciplinary reasons during the one-day series against South Africa last year, will not resume his international career in the near future despite a prolific domestic season.

Ryder will continue with the plan drawn up in the wake of his latest problems with authority last year and play a full season for Wellington before taking up his IPL deal with Delhi Daredevils. Hadlee, who had a close association with Ryder when he was chairman of selectors, hopes to see him back in the set-up but says that no more controversies can be tolerated.

"When Jesse is ready to come back that will be great for our game, but the most important thing he needs to do is obey a set of rules and protocols," Hadlee said. "If you are going to break them it doesn't set a very good example, if Jesse can get away with things. We can't have any more controversy.

"If he's willing and able to do that he'll be a great asset to our game."

Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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