Cricket: McCullum hoping Taylor-gate is closed

By Kris Shannon

There's no surprise that Brendon McCullum is looking forward to tomorrow night's Twenty20 against England at Eden Park - it's the opening match in his first home series as New Zealand skipper.

But there's another reason McCullum is eager to get the games underway.

With Ross Taylor back in the team - welcomed with open arms by McCullum, coach Mike Hesson and the rest of the team - the messy captaincy saga may finally have reached its conclusion.

Barring another scandalous leaked letter or public falling out, today should have been the last day McCullum was asked questions about the man he replaced. And he did so exhibiting the same straight bat he has used repeatedly in the two months since his elevation to skipper.

How's your relationship with Ross, Brendon? "As both Ross and myself have stated, there was never really an issue between us. We're both looking forward to playing together."

Has the team spoken about the switch in captains and resulting fall-out? "Not this time around. The inner sanctum of the group is working well together and is a cohesive unit so far, so we're comfortable where it sits."

Has there, as has been reported, factions within the team? "No, that's media spin."

As the answers may suggest, McCullum and just about everyone within New Zealand cricket must be tiring of the repetition, exacerbated by the arrival this week of the touring English media.

There may have been a few awkward greetings when Taylor arrived in camp yesterday morning but, after those formalities, it was in the best interests for all parties to banish the matter to the back of their minds.

"It has played out on the outside," McCullum said of the saga. "I think within the team it's been dealt with really well. Ross has come back into the group and fitted in seamlessly, and we're expecting a big performance out of him."

If Taylor lives up to those expectations, not only will his sacking as skipper start to become a distant memory but it will provide his side an excellent start for the limited overs portion of England's visit.

The three T20s and three one-dayers are clearly the Black Caps' best hope of taking something from arguably the premier all-round team in world cricket, as was evidenced by New Zealand's recent roller-coaster tour of the Republic.

"In South Africa - from the start of that trip to the end of it - there was some progress," McCullum said. "We saw that, especially in the one-day version of the game in South Africa.

"We had a good finish to the South African tour, but that shouldn't be the exception for us. That should be the norm for the team in short-form cricket, we just haven't been living up to that in recent times.

"So we've got an opportunity in the coming six weeks to show we've learned some lessons from the South African tour and we're able to build on the momentum."

Another man looking to build on momentum is Hamish Rutherford. After impressing while opening the batting for New Zealand XI this week, the 23-year-old will make his international debut and do likewise tomorrow night.

McCullum said Rutherford, opening with Martin Guptill, would be given a free reign to attack and would be followed by himself and Taylor.

Grant Elliott and Ian Butler have been ruled out through injury and Jimmy Neesham, called up to the side today, may be the man from the 12 to miss out.

- APNZ

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