Who should captain the Black Caps?
Ross Taylor is standing his ground as national captain amid an untenable relationship with coach Mike Hesson, leaving New Zealand Cricket boss David White to return to a king-sized mess today.
An announcement on the captaincy could happen as early as today on White's return, a day earlier than originally scheduled, from International Cricket Council business in Dubai.
Taylor remains a strong chance of being usurped by Brendon McCullum for this month's tour of South Africa, as is Hesson's wish, but a groundswell of public support for the incumbent has NZC facing another public relations disaster if McCullum is installed.
A poll on Stuff.co.nz, which has drawn more than 3000 votes, last night had Taylor as preferred captain with 52 per cent to McCullum's 26 per cent.
The key is Hesson and Taylor's relationship, which was virtually non-existent to begin with, and stretched to breaking point during the tour of Sri Lanka.
Fairfax Media understands Taylor was not only given the option of walking away from the captaincy before the 10-wicket defeat in the first test in Galle, but also told that Hesson would recommend a captaincy change on the team's return to New Zealand.
The skipper's man-of-the-match performance in the 167-run win in Colombo last week turned the situation on its head. The timing is awful.
Hesson remains chief selector, a power brought in by NZC's director of cricket John Buchanan last year when then-coach John Wright chose Taylor over McCullum as his skipper.
That was rubber stamped by chairman Chris Moller's NZC board, most of whom now preside over Taylor's potential sacking.
Under NZC procedure, any captaincy change must be first recommended by the coach to the chief executive. If White is convinced on the merits of a change, he then takes it to the board for consideration.
It is understood Buchanan is the only person from NZC who has communicated with Taylor in recent days. Taylor had made no moves to step down last night.
Taylor lacks support from a core of senior players who back McCullum, while Hesson and McCullum are close friends.
And Taylor's isolation extends past Hesson, with manager Mike Sandle also understood to be a McCullum supporter.
White was unavailable for comment yesterday as he boarded a plane and has shut down any other public comment from NZC.
It appears White wants a resolution to this messy situation as soon as possible. Hesson was also unavailable.
A captaincy split, with Taylor retaining the test reins and McCullum taking over the limited overs sides, remains a possibility. But given the Hesson-Taylor relationship it seems highly unlikely unless mediation is called in.
Former test batsman turned commentator Craig McMillan said Taylor needed time to bed in as skipper, as Stephen Fleming did.
"Taylor is not the finished article and who is to say that in another couple of years he is not a very good captain. But the team's best interests must take precedence."
- The Dominion Post
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