Former New Zealand captain Ross Taylor has revealed he was offended by race-based remarks from teammates and staff in New Zealand dressing rooms during his career and said the country’s cricket board could do more to bring Polynesian talent into the sport.
The 38-year-old has Samoan heritage on his mother’s side and has opened up in a new book about how he and other players have faced racism in New Zealand cricket.
In his new autobiography, Ross Taylor: Black & White, written (with Paul Thomas) following his retirement from international cricket earlier this year, Taylor has revealed how the game in New Zealand was “a pretty white sport” and described he and other teammates endured insensitive “banter” from white players.
“Cricket in New Zealand is a pretty white sport. For much of my career I’ve been an anomaly, a brown face in a vanilla line-up,” Taylor wrote in an extract published by the New Zealand Herald.
“That has its challenges, many of which aren’t readily apparent to your teammates or the cricketing public. Given that the Polynesian community is dramatically under-represented in the game, it’s probably no surprise that people sometimes assume I’m Maori or Indian.
“In many ways, dressing-room banter is the barometer. A teammate used to tell me, ‘You’re half a good guy, Ross, but which half is good? You don’t know what I’m referring to.’ I was pretty sure I did. Other players also had to put up with comments that dwelt on their ethnicity.
“In all probability, a Pakeha (white New Zealander) listening to those sorts of comments would think, ‘Oh, that’s okay, it’s just a bit of banter.’ But he’s hearing it as white person and it’s not directed at people like him. So, there’s no pushback; no one corrects them. Then the onus falls on the targets.
“You wonder if you should pull them up but worry that you’ll create a bigger problem or be accused of playing the race card by inflating harmless banter into racism. It’s easier to develop a thick skin and let it slide, but is that the right thing to do?”
Taylor also wrote about experiences from within the New Zealand team environment that had been racially “insensitive”.
He said former staff members had made clumsy comments that “landed with a thud”.
“Let me be clear: I don’t think for one minute that they were coming from a racist perspective. I think they were insensitive and lacked the imagination and empathy to put themselves in the other person’s shoes.
“Instead of the message being, ‘You’re one of us, mate,’ it is, in effect, ‘You’re one of them’.”
More than 8 per cent of New Zealand’s population identify as being of Pacific origin but Taylor is one of only a few Pasifika cricketers to reach the highest level in the country.
Elite rugby in New Zealand, however, is laden with talent from the Pasifika community. Taylor also spoke about an unwitting comment former coach Mike Hesson made.
“When I came back into the team after the captaincy drama, I found myself sitting next to (coach) Mike Hesson in the Koru Lounge at Dunedin Airport. He’d come straight from his house. ‘My cleaner’s Samoan,’ he said. ‘She’s a lovely lady, hard-working, very trustworthy’. All I could say was, ‘Oh, cool’.
“I have no doubt that manager Roman (Sandle) and Hess and the guys who engaged in the ‘banter’ would be dismayed to learn that their remarks landed with a thud.” A cricket board spokesperson said:
“NZC deplores racism, is a staunch supporter of the NZ Human Rights Commission’s ‘Give Nothing to Racism’ campaign, and is deeply disappointed Ross has been exposed to this type of behaviour.”
Written with Reuters inputs