New Zealand test opener, and new skipper, Brendon McCullum played some of the best straight bat shots of his career this afternoon.
Unfortunately for the Black Caps, it wasn't on the test wicket at Newlands in Cape Town - it was in front of members of the assembled sports media in a hotel conference roomin Auckland.
McCullum and a number of the Black Caps depart for South Africa tomorrow for one of the most anticipated tours in recent memory for the team.
Not just because they're up against the world's No 1-ranked test team.
But also because of the controversial axing of skipper Ross Taylor last week, and the public and media fall-out to the way New Zealand Cricket executed the decision.
Dispatching questions about the difficulty of the tour and South Africa's star-studded test and short-form line-up with relative comfort, McCullum squared up well when the shorter-pitched questions came in.
Such as: 'How awkward will it be in the dressing room when Taylor is back and coach Mike Hesson - who initiated the now infamous hotel room meeting in Sri Lanka last month - is there?'
''We're theorising here a little bit,'' he said. ''We'll wait and see what unfolds. All I know is Ross is a fabulous cricketer, a good bloke and he's still a strong leader amongst this group.
''People have differing opinions at times, and people view things in different ways but ultimately this team is better with Ross Taylor involved in it.''
On whether he had spoken to Taylor since the former captain got the archer last week:''I have spoken to him. Private conversations, but I have spoken to him,'' McCullum said.
''Obviously he needs a bit of space at the moment. My thoughts and the teams thoughts are with him.
''Similar to Jesse [Ryder], when he is good and ready to come back, he will be good to have him in the team because he's obviously a world-class player, and by-far-and-a-way our best batsman as well.''
McCullum has been in contact with the in-form Ryder as well, and is looking forward to seeing him back in the Black Caps in the ''not-to-distant future''.
''But at the moment, it's about Jesse getting out of first-class cricket in the next few months what he needs to, and that's the most important thing,'' McCullum said.
The Black Caps have a raft of changes for both the Twenty20 and test sides for South Africa, making the task in the Republic a tough one.
Answering critics can only come from good cricket, McCullum acknowledged.
''Ultimately we have got the opportunity to turn up and play good cricket and hopefully play some winning cricket.
''That's what our goal is and hopefully if we do that, then some of that criticism from afar will quieten down a bit.''
Playing a similar array of shots on the wickets around South Africa would be a good start for the new Black Caps skipper.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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