OPINION: The monkey that has been sitting firmly on Brendon McCullum's back for over a year has finally been thrown off after New Zealand's wonderful test victory over the West Indies in Wellington last week.
Led superbly by Ross Taylor with the bat and Trent Boult with the ball on a greenish wicket against a touring team that, at best, could be described as "average", the Black Caps showed real dominance.
The result was never in doubt and what was most pleasing about it was the way the New Zealand batsmen scored enough runs in the first innings to give their bowlers some breathing room.
McCullum's decision on Friday to enforce the follow on after copping so much criticism for his tactics in the first test also deserves a mention. It was a gutsy, brave call and one that ultimately, a few short hours later, looked like a masterstroke.
Of course, had the New Zealand bowling unit, as they did in Dunedin, been unable to seal the deal, he would have been left looking a little foolish.
It's great to see the Black Caps skipper backing himself to make the right decisions and he was rewarded with his first test win since taking over from Taylor.
After the test, I spoke to McCullum about why he decided to enforce the follow on again so soon after Dunedin when the scars were clearly still raw.
He said he'd spoken to his bowlers, who all felt fresh, and decided, given there were still two-and-a-half days to play, the Black Caps needed to be aggressive.
I really like that attitude.
Speaking of winning attitudes, throughout this series Taylor has been a star with the bat for New Zealand. After his century at the Basin Reserve, a lot of comparisons have been drawn with our greatest all-time batsman Martin Crowe.
In my view, Crowe will probably always be our best. But Taylor is certainly right up there as one of New Zealand's greatest batsmen now.
A year after losing the captaincy, the classy batsman seems to have taken his game to the next level.
After what happened, he could have easily gone the other way. But instead, Taylor's never been in better form and the application he's shown in the middle is just phenomenal.
You could argue that losing the captaincy has allowed him to play with more freedom. But, then again, even when he was in charge, Taylor was performing to a high level.
He's undoubtedly now the best batsman in New Zealand and that responsibility seems to sit well on his shoulders.
He's a fighter - always has been - and is certainly going to chalk up some numbers in the coming years to ensure he will go down in history as one of the country's greatest ever cricketers.
It would be remiss, of course, to talk about the win in Wellington without mentioning the exploits with the ball in hand of Boult.
You'd have to go a long way back to recall a better bowling effort by a New Zealander.
The last similar performance I can recall was when Chris Martin took five wickets against India on a flat track in Ahmedabad back in 2010. Just to give it some context, that was also Kane Williamson's test debut.
As for on home soil, I truly cannot recall a better performance by a New Zealand seamer in years.
To watch Boult on Friday was a privilege. He bowled with consistency, intent and, as a left-armer, did a great job of swinging the ball in to the right-handers.
In the commentary box, Ian Smith suggested that Boult of all bowlers in recent time reminded him most of Sir Richard Hadlee.
I'm not suggesting here, of course, that Boult is the next Hadlee.
But if you look at his economy of movement and his rhythm, it does have a bit of a Hadlee look about it.
I've said for a long time that Boult was a star of the future and that he would eventually get his moment in the sun.
That came on Friday and I expect we'll be seeing a lot more of him over the summer.
Of course, Boult wasn't on his own in rolling the West Indies in Wellington.
He was ably assisted by the entire New Zealand bowling unit and Tim Southee's efforts bowling into the wind on Friday and making the crucial breakthrough undoubtedly contributed to the performance.
It's nice, for once, to be lauding the Black Caps for a job well done.
Their challenge now is to back up the performance in Hamilton.
- Sunday News
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