Ross Taylor is cricketing royalty in Aotearoa – he’s scored the most runs, made the most centuries and taken the most catches by a Kiwi on the international cricketing stage. There’s plenty of successes, but there’s also been tough times in a sport that demands so much from its players.
In 2012 Ross was dropped as captain of the Black Caps, and was under so much stress he’d only get two hours of sleep a night, and his weight dropped to the same as he used to be when he was just 14.
But he didn’t give up – in fact Ross came back stronger, better and far tougher. And now, he even has a new book, Black and White, that tells his full story. We chatted to Ross for a sneak peek!
Ross, you’ve obviously had this amazing career. When it comes to preparation and your inner dialogue, how do you get into flow state? What are the rituals you do to get your head in the right space before a game?
I think over time you learn to pick people’s brains, you know, former cricketers, current players in your team, and go from your own experiences. You’ve got to learn to fail and accept that. I learned over time what worked for me, but I continually wanted to improve and learn. I was still able to improve and try different things to make myself a better person and a better player.
I’d love to explore those rituals, those things that you have learned that maybe we as ordinary folk can try when it comes to mindset. Do you jump in the ice bath, do you have a specific gratitude practice? What are the things you’ve learnt to do that really add value for you, especially during the hard times?
It’s a tough one – cricket is a strange game and you fail more than you succeed. I mean, when you pick a profession to try and make a living from, I wouldn’t recommend it from that side of things! But as I said before, you have to learn to deal with failure, and it’s not how you deal with it at the time, it’s how you come back from it.
I’ve thoroughly enjoyed myself as a cricketer, but the resilience you need to be able to have day in day out, the sacrifices of spending time away from family and friends, is hard. Things like kids’ birthdays, weddings and funerals – missing those to represent your country might not sound like much, but it’s a big sacrifice.
So for me, a little thing I used a lot was ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’. Sharing and talking was great for me and it’s very poignant now that in society, we are talking more than ever before as well.
Your other role of course is being a dad and a parent. I’d love to know what the game of cricket has taught you about being a better dad?
The game has been really good to me and my family. I’ve got to see parts of the world I wouldn’t have been able to see if it wasn’t for the game. My kids have seen their dad grow up. You know, they see legends like Kane Williamson, Martin Guptill, Trent Bolt, they just see them as Kane and Guppy and Trent, they’re fortunate in that regard.
But I think they’ve been great for putting things into perspective for me. When you do have a bad day, they just see me as Dad. They don’t know that Dad got out for four or played a poor shot. Nothing’s better than to get home from a big tour of Australia and India and go and pick them up from kindy, and for them to run and give you a big hug. They just see me as Dad and love me for that.
You’ve had dark days – the difference is yours would make the front page. When you think back to a time where you weren’t sure if you wanted to go on with the game, how did you come out of it and not let it consume you?
I’ve failed a lot. At the start of my career when I failed, there was a little bit of scrutiny. But now there’s so many other avenues where people can make comments and judge you, good and bad. You have to appreciate the good stuff and be able to take the criticism that comes with it, from Twitter, Instagram – all that stuff that I didn’t have at the start of my career.
I felt like for me, I just needed to do a job, and my job was to score runs. And regardless of what was happening in other corners of my life or in the team, I had to find a way of succeeding. For me, that wasn’t getting too caught up when I scored runs. And it wasn’t getting too caught up when I had things that were negatively mentioned about me.
What advice would you give to young cricketers – how do you look at the new pressures that people are facing right now? What advice would you give knowing what you know?
Don’t sweat the small stuff. I think if you let the small stuff consume you and eat you up, things can get overwhelming. As a professional sportsman, or as a budding sportsman, you’ve got to enjoy what you do.
Just accept that you’re going to have tough days. Unfortunately, you know, professional sport is not always easy, but acknowledge that – you can have bad days and everyone goes through them. But as long as you enjoy it, and when you sacrifice and work hard for it, then it’s a very rewarding path to represent your country and do something that you love.
Have you noticed any progression when it comes to the Black Caps from the start of your career to now – what have you seen within the organisation that has impressed you over the last few years?
I’ve worked with sports psychologists and mental skills coaches throughout my career and I think I must admit that they’ve had a massive influence on where I am as a person and as a player. When I first started out seeking these people out might have been seen as a weakness, but understanding the mental skill side just makes your job that much easier.
Some people use them a lot. Some people use them sporadically and some people use them when they probably might be a little bit too late. But that’s where I think, and not just New Zealand Cricket, but a lot of organisations are starting to become aware of this and are putting more emphasis on it and putting in these type of people in these environments to deal with situations So I would just say to everyone, don’t be afraid to seek people’s help and don’t see it as being weak. I think it’s a powerful tool and in your evolution to improve as a person, and as an athlete,
I personally think vulnerability is a powerful tool as well. What would you say to people with that in mind?
Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable. Everyone’s going through it in some sort of way, some a little bit more than others. Sometimes you just need to have it reinforced that it’s natural. And don’t beat yourself up about it.
To finish with gratitude, what shows up for you Ross?
I’m grateful for my family and I’m grateful for the career that I’ve had from a youngster as a five year old. I’ve grown up playing cricket and I wanted to represent and play for my country. I was happy with what I achieved and I hope I made my family and my friends and of course the fans proud, and I really do look forward to seeing the next generation of New Zealanders and cricketers achieve their dreams as well.