Not only has New Zealand Cricket lost Ross Taylor as their captain, they could also be shorn of their best batsman for a daunting South Africa tour and beyond.
Fairfax Media understands Taylor will decline an offer to split the captaincy duties with Brendon McCullum when he meets NZC chief executive David White in Auckland today.
That will clear the way for McCullum to be confirmed as skipper when the test and Twenty20 teams to tour South Africa are named tomorrow.
And Taylor looks increasingly unlikely to be on the plane when the team departs for South Africa next week.
Sources close to Taylor say he is shattered, in desperate need of a break from cricket and is seriously considering his future.
The stresses of recent months took a huge toll on Taylor, who has a young family and is still dealing with the recent death of his grandmother, to whom he was close.
His working relationship with coach Mike Hesson was again described as "untenable" yesterday.
Hesson telephoned Taylor on Monday to confirm his recommendation that Taylor continue leading the test side, and that McCullum take over the T20 and ODI captaincy.
The conversation was understood to be brief. Hesson will argue the popular McCullum is the superior captain, and outline Taylor's lack of communication skills and minimal dressing room support.
NZC's director of cricket John Buchanan is understood to be a Taylor backer.
The test captaincy appears to be an olive branch, particularly after Taylor's man-of-the-match performance in the 167-run win over Sri Lanka in Colombo last week.
The NZC board, which rubber stamped Taylor's ascent to the top job in June last year, approved the new split-captaincy proposal on Tuesday.
White already flagged the idea to Taylor in their one phone conversation this week and will discuss it further today.
"I'm catching up with Ross and we'll have a good chat. I'm looking forward to it," White said.
Asked if he was concerned about the toll this messy saga was taking on Taylor, and his potential absence from South Africa, White said: "We're always concerned about all our players and it's a challenging time for everyone so we've just got to work through it."
Taylor feels no animosity towards McCullum or his team-mates, but feels undermined and hung out to dry by Black Caps management, particularly Hesson whose friendship with McCullum has been the elephant in the room since the coach succeeded John Wright in August.
White returned from an International Cricket Council meeting in Dubai to a firestorm at Auckland Airport yesterday.
He said the result of the Sri Lanka tour review would be revealed at tomorrow's team announcement but confirmed Hesson's job was safe.
"Absolutely. He's contracted through to the Cricket World Cup [in 2015]."
Taylor broke his silence last night, via his Twitter account, but gave little away.
"A lot of speculation out there. I have heard from the CEO once. I haven't made any decisions. At no time have I given NZC any ultimatums about Hesson or me or South Africa," he tweeted to his 81,000 followers.
NZC has overseen some public relations disasters, but this may take the cake.
Not only has it stood by and watched its coach and captain fall out beyond repair, but it has alienated its best player after he led the Black Caps to a rare victory on the subcontinent to break a five-test losing streak.
"It's regrettable that I've been out of the country for five days on ICC business. The challenge obviously is with the short period of time between the tours and my being overseas has not been ideal. We're working through the process now," White said.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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