Wellington: Bitterness created by the sacking of former captain Ross Taylor seems likely to follow the New Zealand cricket team into its demanding home series against England beginning on Saturday.
Taylor rejoined the New Zealand team in Auckland on Thursday as it prepares for the first of three Twenty20 internationals against England; to be followed by three one-dayers and three Test matches.
While he sought to be diplomatic, Taylor's first comments to reporters suggested many of the issues created by his sacking late last year remain unresolved and that the New Zealand team may be divided as it faces a testing series.
Taylor described his continuing relationship with coach Mike Hesson, who sacked him in Sri Lanka last year, as "a work in progress." He suggested his relationship with new captain Brendon McCullum was less fraught, but Taylor also hinted at a fractured and factionalized New Zealand team.
Taylor refused to play for New Zealand on their recent tour to South Africa in which they were twice beaten by an innings in Test matches - including a first-innings score of only 45 in the first Test at Cape Town.
New Zealand lost the Twenty20 series in South Africa 2-1 and won the one-day series 2-1, but they remain in eighth place in world rankings in all three forms of the game.
England are heavily favoured to win the T20, one-day and Test series, and Taylor's inadvertent depiction of an unharmonious New Zealand team has firmed that favoritism.
When Hesson sacked Taylor four days out from the second Test in Sri Lanka, he hinted at a national team which had lost faith in its captain. But Taylor said he retained "friends" within the New Zealand team and suggested a separate faction had allied itself with Hesson and McCullum.
On Thursday, while Taylor was ambiguous about his relationship with Hesson, he said "I've got friends in the team and I'm looking forward to playing for them, and obviously playing for management and the country as well."
He chatted with McCullum during New Zealand's training session in Auckland on Thursday but the interaction seemed formal, rather than relaxed. "Have we had a beer? No, I met Brendon this morning so I'm sure we'll go and meet up over the next couple of days somewhere," Taylor said. "I don't think there was anything wrong with our relationship in the first place."
Taylor said he felt no animosity from his team-mates after his loss of the captaincy and his decision to bypass the South African tour. "I can't speak for anyone else, I can only see what I see myself but I haven't seen anything untoward towards myself," he said. "And I've just been acting like my normal self, so I don't see anything there.
"It's been nice to see some fresh faces that I don't know and have only played against. They've brought a new enthusiasm into the team."
Taylor said although he was no longer captain, he would continue to express his opinion on the field as a senior player. "I did that when I wasn't captain so I don't see any change in that," he said. "Regardless of whether you're a senior player or a junior player, if you've got something to offer the team you'd be stupid not to offer it."
Taylor said the New Zealand players were eager to set aside the controversy around the captaincy change and to focus on the England series. But he was created with an unusually large media group at training as interest remained in his relationship with McCullum, Hesson and his teammates.
"There's probably still people outside of the team that want to stir it up a little bit, but we can't control that," he said. "There are a few cameras here and I'm sure they're here for a reason.
"You've just got to get on with it. It is what it is, and I'm sure come Saturday it'll be all forgotten."
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