Tay­lor garage trea­sure trove

Herald on Sunday - - IN OTHER NEWS - By An­drew Alder­son

When Ross Tay­lor cleans out his garage, there tend to be two win­ners. The first is his fam­ily, who have more space to move around their home. The sec­ond are Samoan crick­eters, who re­ceive the spoils of stock­piled gear.

Last month, Tay­lor vis­ited Samoa, the birth­place of his mother Ann, to cel­e­brate the coun­try’s 20th an­niver­sary as a crick­et­ing na­tion.

The 33-year-old had last vis­ited 30 years ago.

Tay­lor took six bags of kit on the plane, in­clud­ing 11⁄2 from his friend and in­ter­na­tional team-mate Martin Gup­till, for dis­tri­bu­tion among the cricket com­mu­nity.

Tay­lor’s largesse means it is not un­com­mon for Samoan play­ers to wan­der on to fields in trousers which ei­ther cut off at the low calf or re­quire a cou­ple of folds to avoid slip­ping over their shoes.

“I had been mean­ing to clear out the garage for a while,” he said. “I had to call in a favour from my New Zealand travel agent to get an ex­cess bag­gage waiver.”

The 81-test vet­eran made the trip with Mur­phy Su’a, the first Samoan to play cricket for New Zealand. Su’a went on to play for Samoa, and coached the side for eight years.

“We’ve been try­ing to get him back there but it’s tough when he’s trav­el­ling much of the year,” Su’a said of Tay­lor.

“He cap­tained the New Zealand side and is one of our best bat­ters. That means a lot to the Samoan com­mu­nity. There’s lots of rugby play­ers who come through, but not a lot of crick­eters.”

Tay­lor was of­ten re­ferred to by his first name Luteru, vis­ited his mum’s home vil­lage Saolu­afata, and even caught up with a cou­ple of aun­ties dur­ing the fly­ing visit.

“Samoans are proud of him and wanted to cel­e­brate that [at the 20th an­niver­sary din­ner],” Su’a said. “His mum’s vil­lage did a fan­tas­tic dance on the night and Ross had a ques­tion and an­swer ses­sion with me. They raised in the vicin­ity of $20,000-$30,000.

“We’d also go out for cof­fee and a lot of guys around the ages of 12-24 were speak­ing in Samoan and you’d hear them whis­per ‘Ross Tay­lor’. Some came up and had a photo or got au­to­graphs.”

Tay­lor and Su’a put on some coach­ing clin­ics and the tal­ent on dis­play was im­pres­sive.

“I was in­tend­ing to give away a cou­ple of shirts to the best catch­ers,” Tay­lor said. “I was belt­ing the balls but the field­ers were so good, I had to ask them to catch one-handed. I still had to give away about five shirts.

“We went driv­ing through a few vil­lages and a cou­ple had kids play­ing in matches with those old yel­low Milo [schools tour­na­ment] wick­ets. There was also proper cricket be­ing played in the vil­lage [rather than the Samoan de­riv­a­tive ki­lik­iti]. If you saw that in In­dia or Sri Lanka, you wouldn’t look twice, but that was awe­some in Samoa. It was good to see them play­ing sports out­side of rugby and league.”

Such a sce­nario has been helped by an in­fra­struc­ture de­vel­oped in part­ner­ship with the In­ter­na­tional Cricket Coun­cil, and a men­tor­ing re­la­tion­ship with Auck­land Cricket.

The “English” ver­sion of the game has also been pro­moted by Prime Min­is­ter Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Maliel­e­gaoi’s gov­ern­ment. In the 2013 book, An Ocean Of Cricket, Maliel­e­gaoi told au­thors Adam and Bar­rie Cas­sidy that “apart from rugby and long-boat row­ing, there was no other op­por­tu­nity for Samoans to play sport in­ter­na­tion­ally”.

Cricket is seen as a way for Samoans to travel, earn a de­cent in­come and sup­port their fam­i­lies.

“Samoa’s come a long way in 20 years. The chal­lenge is to play ev­ery year [in­ter­na­tion­ally] be­cause at the mo­ment, they play ev­ery two to three, which is tough to build mo­men­tum,” Su’a said.

Ross Tay­lor

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