Should Ross Taylor have made himself available for the tour of South Africa?
New Zealand Cricket boss David White was insistent that Ross Taylor turned down the Black Caps' test captaincy rather than being sacked and replaced by Brendon McCullum.
That was the party line as White confirmed the change in command for the New Zealand team at a press conference in Auckland today.
The upshot is that McCullum will lead the Black Caps in all three forms of the international game - tests, ODIs and T20s - starting with the coming tour of South Africa.
White said the initial recommendation of new coach Mike Hesson was to retain Taylor as test captain and have McCullum take over as skipper for the shorter versions. This was approved by the board.
Hesson had come to this conclusion after reviewing his two tours to India and Sri Lanka and the T20 World Cup in Sri Lanka.
But a clearly disappointed Taylor had declined the offer of splitting the captaincy and had also decided to take a break from the international game by not touring South Africa.
White was confident Taylor would return to the Black Caps for the home series against England in the new year.
"Mike's assessment was that he wanted to share the captaincy workload," White said.
"He thought the best environment for Ross to develop his captaincy was in the tests."
White confirmed Taylor wanted to stay as captain of all three forms of the game. Clearly Taylor refused to back down from that stance and has decided, instead, to walk away for the time being.
White met Taylor and his manager for three hours yesterday "looking at a number of options, including just to play in the tests" in South Africa.
"He thought long and hard about it but felt he needed a break."
That leaves the Black Caps without their best batsman to play the No 1 ranked team in the world.
"It's not ideal and we would be a stronger team with Ross in it. But we respect his wishes," White said.
White didn't agree with suggestions that Taylor had lost the support of his players.
"I don't believe he lost the dressing room. He is well respected," White said.
The chief executive admitted the saga had been a messy affair and he wasn't happy it had played out publicly in the media. This hadn't been helped by his absence overseas at International Cricket Council meetings.
White said he had discussions with Hesson during the recent tour of Sri Lanka that finished with Taylor gaining man of the match honours for his batting after he oversaw a rare victory.
"There was consultation," White admitted.
With the short time between tours Hesson had "wanted to get the process under way". He also "wanted to be up front and honest about the changes" and "didn't want Ross to hear it second hand".
White said he phoned McCullum last night to offer him the captaincy and that had been accepted. McCullum had been delighted and honoured to take on the job but also felt for Taylor and the difficult circumstances.
McCullum is New Zealand's 28th test captain, though it's a position he has previously held, standing in for the injured Taylor.
The two have had a long rivalry for the position. They were head to head candidates for the job last year - some have described it as US Presidential-style race - with Taylor eventually gaining the confidence of the NZC board when appointing him in June, 2011.
But the appointment of Hesson to replace John Wright as coach of the New Zealand team placed heat on Taylor because of Hesson's strong relationship with McCullum through their previous work together at Otago.
The first cracks in the Hesson-Taylor relationship appeared at the T20 World Cup when Hesson got tongues wagging with an ambiguous answer to a question about Taylor's captaincy for the three forms of the game.
''All I can say is at the moment Ross Taylor is captain of the Black Caps. That's a board decision and Ross and I have been working pretty hard together, obviously, for this tournament,'' said Hesson.
From there it has spiralled to today's extraordinary announcement.
- © Fairfax NZ News