Who should captain the Black Caps?
Ross Taylor was asked to step down as New Zealand captain by coach Mike Hesson before last month's two-test series in Sri Lanka.
The Dominion Post understands Hesson made the extraordinary request before the team's 10-wicket defeat in Galle, and Taylor refused. It shows how far the captain-coach relationship had tumbled amid the team's awful run of results.
Hesson's diminishing faith, and a lack of support from senior players, is expected to see Brendon McCullum usurp Taylor as skipper by the end of this week, for the upcoming tour of South Africa.
That's despite Taylor's man-of-the-match performance in leading New Zealand to a 167-run win to level the series in Colombo last week.
New Zealand Cricket chief executive David White did little to quell the widespread speculation about a captaincy change from Dubai last night, where he's attending an International Cricket Council meeting.
"No decisions have been made. We're still half way through a full review of all aspects of the [Sri Lanka] tour and once we complete that review then we'll provide information," White said.
The NZC board, which rubber-stamps any captaincy change, was involved in the review, White said.
Asked about Hesson offering Taylor the chance to step down, White said: "That's speculation and I'm not prepared to talk about speculation."
White will return to Auckland tomorrow, a day earlier than originally scheduled.
He confirmed that the media update would happen before the Twenty20 squad to tour South Africa is announced.
The captaincy issue has swirled since Hesson took over as coach from John Wright for the tour of India in August.
Taylor felt uneasy and quizzed Hesson at their first meeting about the coach's close friendship with McCullum, who lost out in a two-way race for the captaincy after last year's World Cup.
Hesson has since provided some curious responses when asked about his captain.
McCullum has high-powered backing, notably from two former skippers.
Daniel Vettori is a McCullum supporter and Stephen Fleming is McCullum's manager and business partner, and sat on the panel that appointed Hesson.
It is understood Taylor felt isolated during the Sri Lanka tour and sought regular counsel with trusted cricketing figures in New Zealand.
NZC's director of cricket, John Buchanan, was dispatched to Sri Lanka for the test series.
On his return to Auckland on Friday night, Taylor was asked whether he was confident of retaining the captaincy.
"There's a review after every tour and I can't control what's said in that meeting. I'm just glad to be home and whatever comes from that, comes from that," he said.
Taylor's batting average in all formats is much healthier than before he took the reins.
But while Taylor's runs were crucial to their victory in Colombo, his lack of a leadership presence and struggle to communicate a clear message to his team appear to have caught up with him.
McCullum's captaincy experience isn't extensive, but he is a natural leader and has the ear of the dressing room, and will work well with Hesson.
His gambler's instinct and cricketing nous might provide a further shot in the arm for this team, and Hesson will hope extra runs flow from his bat.
An olive branch of potentially splitting the captaincy between Taylor and McCullum could still be entertained, but looks unlikely given Hesson's apparent lack of faith.
- © Fairfax NZ News