Skipper Taylor under pressure


AUSTRALIAN stalwarts Ian Healy and Steve Waugh yesterday defended embattled cricket skipper Mark Taylor as pressure builds over a run of low scores.

Taylor has made 11 7 runs in six one-day internationals this season, 139 in three Tests and has achieved one half century in his past 22 first-class innings.

He admitted after Tuesday's 20-run loss to Pakistan that he had considered avoiding the rest of the World Series tournament to play a Sheffield Shield game in a bid to re-discover his form before the fourth Test against the West Indies starts in Adelaide on January 25th.

A draw in Adelaide, or in Perth the following week, would be enough to retain the Frank Worrell Trophy, won under Taylor in the Caribbean in 1995.

Coinciding with Taylor's drought, Australia have lost their past four one-day internationals and won just two of the last 12.

Vice-captain Healy and Taylor's New South Wales teammate Waugh are two of cricket's most resilient players and, with Taylor, form the Australian team's `on-field executive'.

If Taylor is sacked or stands down, either could become Test captain.

"I'm pretty sure he has done the right thing. It's not up to him to do that (drop himself). I wouldn't recommend anyone do that," said Healy, who led Australia during a one-day tournament in Sri Lanka last August while Taylor was recovering from back surgery.

"Everyone's very conscious of it and you do as much as you can for that person, but ultimately it's an individual game.

"No matter how nice, helpful and positive others are around you, you've got to go and do it.

"That is the loneliness of a form slump in a cricket team.

Waugh said: "Obviously you don't want to see one of your mates be the recipient of a lot of press that says he might be on his way out.

Australia must beat the West Indies in Perth on Sunday, then down Pakistan on January 16th to have hopes of making the best-of-three finals.