Andrew Alderson

Andrew Alderson is a sport writer for the Herald on Sunday.

Cricket: NZC view Fulton as viable test captain

Peter Fulton.  Photo / Getty Images
Peter Fulton. Photo / Getty Images

Peter Fulton is the frontrunner to captain the New Zealand test team if Brendon McCullum is injured.

Speculation rose about McCullum's successor in the various forms when he twinged an abdominal muscle in the final one-day international at Eden Park. There is no vice-captain named in any New Zealand squad; the team prefers to rely on a leadership or strategic group as back-up.

Ross Taylor is out of contention to deputise, despite allegedly being New Zealand Cricket's preferred candidate to lead the test side when a split captaincy was mooted. His unpalatable exit from the job remains too raw and needs further healing, so NZC decided to rely on the leadership group concept rather than broach the subject and risk re-opening the wound.

At 22, Kane Williamson is seen as a work-in-progress.

There is an unwillingness to subject him to more responsibility when maintaining his form in the pivotal No 3 batting position is the priority.

Fulton has vast experience captaining Canterbury. He took over that role from Kruger van Wyk in the 2009-10 season. Canterbury won the Plunket Shield the following season but have not won any titles since.

Fulton's form has been largely unaffected in the role and he tends to engender the respect of team-mates with his measured approach. He has a reputation for instilling confidence in his charges, particularly bowlers. Fulton formed part of the leadership group on the tour to South Africa until he returned home with a knee injury.

With Fulton now aged 34, there is a school of thought his best days as a batsman might be past him and he might be vulnerable to bounce, especially from the likes of the 1.98m Steven Finn. However, Fulton's Plunket Shield form is outstanding, having made 902 runs at 56.37 including three centuries. Now he might make the leap to tossing the coin and donning the pads first if McCullum is injured.

That is a big 'if'. The skipper currently has a test fitness record rivalling the best in the world. McCullum has not missed a test through injury (or form) since his debut in 2004. He has played 72 tests. Of current players just Mahela Jayawardene (93), Alastair Cook (85) and AB de Villiers (85) have played more straight tests. Only de Villiers' record extends from debut.

The other problem would be who to bat at No 5 if McCullum was absent. Tom Latham is the likely candidate, having been picked in the test squad as an opener and middle order cover. That theory assumes Hamish Rutherford will open in the tests with Fulton after his 90 in the first innings of the four-dayer in Queenstown.

Latham's test selection would be a gamble, considering he averaged 33.07 with a top score of 81 in the Plunket Shield this season. He made just 16 against England in the four-day warm-up but looked comfortable at No 3 in the three warm-up T20s for scores of 23, 22 and 64.

- Herald on Sunday

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_a2 at 28 Aug 2014 07:31:51 Processing Time: 824ms