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I didnít take captaincy too seriously: Taylor
ĎFor many, cricket is about life and death... For me, it was a sport only... By treating it that way, I was able to relaxí

Port Elizabeth: From the mid-Nineties till he quit, in early 1999, Mark Taylor was the finest captain around. Aggressive, innovative, fiercely competitive... He finished with a handsome 26 wins and 13 losses in Tests and also had a plus-percentage in ODIs ó 36 victories to 30 defeats. Clearly, he is qualified to talk about captaincy.

Taylor, doing TV duty in the World Cup, did just that Monday morning when he spoke to The Telegraph at the Holiday Inn (Kingís Beach). Owing to an exclusive contract with Channel Nine, Taylor didnít make any reference to the tournament. In fact, his contract prevented him from talking about Sourav Ganguly ó who has been outstanding in this World Cup.

Incidentally, Taylor was captain when Australia made the 1996 final.

The following are excerpts

On the qualities a captain must have

Two readily come to mind... The ability to understand players on and off the field and the ability to communicate. Captaincy isnít ever confined to the field and dressing room... Then, a captain must have the skills to put his views across in a manner understood by everybody. Also, this line of communication should be two-way as the players, too, may wish to communicate something. A captain must not be a schoolmaster, instructing the boys on what to do. A good communicator is one who is an equally good listener.

On whether he had a role model captain

I certainly looked at a lot of captains... Ian Chappell, Allan Border, Mohammed Azharuddin... I imbibed what could be beneficial and ignored what wouldnít work for me... Iíve no qualms admitting I generally grabbed bits of information from people around me... Of course, I didnít model my captaincy on any one captain.

On his approach to captaincy

(Laughs) I didnít take it too seriously... For many, cricket is about life and death... For me, it was a sport only. By treating it that way, I was able to relax and go about the captaincy in a better manner.

On the criteria in picking his top five captains

Except for Chappell, Iíve chosen the ones I played with and against. Iíve deliberately not gone back in time.

On his top five (alphabetically)

Azharuddin
Ian chappell
Imran Khan
Steve Waugh
Steven Fleming

AZHARUDDIN: Probably didnít captain by consensus, but adopted the approach he thought was right... The impression I got is that the players knew exactly what was expected of them. I specially liked Azharís field settings for the spinners ó used to be very good. (After a pause) Where Iím concerned, the match-fixing controversy hasnít taken anything away from his captaincy... Doesnít come into my equation.

CHAPPELL: He enjoyed results and, so, was for attacking cricket. Boring draws didnít fit into his scheme of things... In fact, my approach was just the same. He will be remembered for injecting that aggressive nature into our cricket.

STEPHEN FLEMING: Takes a stand and doesnít flinch... He knows the limitations of his players and gets the best out of them. If he takes a punt, itís calculated... The usual reaction of a team that isnít strong enough is to play defensively ó but not New Zealand under Fleming... He wonít sit back hoping for a draw and mistakes from an opposition that, on paper, is stronger... Fleming was superb in Australia last season.

IMRAN KHAN: Obviously knew his players very well... Led from the front, kept his team together and gambled with purpose. A very fine leader.

STEVE WAUGH: Itís difficult assessing somebody you played with for a number of years but, then, Steve has done such an outstanding job... He inherited a tough side and made it tougher... Moreover, the present team is playing even more aggressively than when I was captain.

Finally, his advice to captains-in-the-making

Donít take it too seriously. Everybody wants to be a winner and thereís pressure in plenty, but, treat cricket like a sport and not an issue of life and death. In any case, if the enjoyment isnít there, you wonít be successful. (After a pause) I donít think one-day cricket allows a captain to be as good as he can be, but my advice will always be to encourage attacking cricket.

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