Brendon McCullum is being asked to do something no New Zealand cricketer has done in his debut tour as test captain: win a series against world No1 South Africa.

John Reid's side of 1961-62 got closest, drawing their five-test series 2-2 - but making it a more Houdini-like feat is the fact McCullum is attempting it without his two most successful test batsmen, Ross Taylor and Jesse Ryder.

McCullum fronted media for the first time as official New Zealand skipper yesterday, a task he hardly relished in the wake of Taylor's withdrawal. He immediately dispatched claims his Otago links with coach Mike Hesson were behind his promotion.

"Absolutely not," he said. "That's probably the thing that's come out this week which has annoyed me most. That cuts right to the bone, that someone would question your integrity and question your character like that. To be totally honest, it's highly insulting for people to cast aspersions when they don't know any of the circumstances.


"I had absolutely no involvement in that recommendation whatsoever. I was asked if I would lead the one-day and Twenty20 team two days ago, and then yesterday (Friday) I was asked if I'd lead the test team after Ross turned it down. That's about as much involvement as I've had in the entire situation.

"I wanted Ross to be test captain; we could've worked well together."

McCullum said he had spoken on the phone with Taylor and stressed the pair had a strong relationship: "It's only really been media hype and fiction over the last 16 months, since the captaincy selection of Ross, which has tried to drive a wedge between Ross and I. We've got a very good relationship, a very respectful relationship. We've played with each other for a very long time, and we know each other's families."

With Taylor's involvement for the home series against England in doubt, McCullum said he would do his utmost to ensure he was welcome.

"Ross is an integral member of this team. He's vitally important for us in terms of how we're going to improve our performances. He's also a popular member of the team. There's a lot of guys who will be feeling for him at the moment. We'll welcome him back when he's good and ready.

"He's far and away our best batsman and at 28, has the potential to be our best batsman in history. Jesse being out of the mix makes the challenge harder as well, especially with the way he's been playing in the HRV Cup. I spoke to him last night [Friday] and told him he's an important member of this team going forward."

Along with getting his team ready for South Africa, McCullum said they needed to reconnect with the public.

"I'm more concerned with how the team's handling this situation and where we go from here. We need to galvanise this unit and build some rapport with the public because that's taken a hit."