New Zealand's 28th test captain steps out for his first toss in charge of the national side tonight.

Most followers have an idea as to what Brendon McCullum, in his 71st test, will bring to the role.

The expectation is he'll be prepared to gamble, won't let situations drift and will try to approach the job with a positive mindset.

Whether that is a recipe to lift New Zealand from eighth-best test nation out of nine remains to be seen, but McCullum is likely to want to try to do things his way - starting with the huge challenge of playing the world's best side in their back yard.


In a sense, McCullum, who replaced Ross Taylor at the end of New Zealand's tour of Sri Lanka last month, has little to lose. Which is not to say events in this potentially most gruelling of series won't go into the overall end-of-summer assessment of his performance in the job.

It might encourage McCullum to take some risks, on the basis that going through the routine motions isn't going to be anything like enough to put the squeeze on South Africa.

Experienced allrounder James Franklin has played all but two of his 30 tests alongside McCullum. "He's quite aggressive with his field placements and brand of cricket," he said. "With Brendon you're not always going to get run-of-the-mill field placings. He's very detailed with bowlers on different placements. He's always looking to try things out just to break up the norm.

"We all know the way he plays himself. He likes to impose himself on the opposition. He's got his own brand of playing cricket and he certainly brings that to the captaincy."

McCullum is facing the most experienced captain in test history, Graeme Smith, who has overseen 45 victories in 97 matches in charge.

Franklin insists that won't faze the new guy at the helm. It's also worth remembering McCullum's manager is Stephen Fleming, who led New Zealand in more tests than anyone and who successfully got under Smith's skin when they clashed in New Zealand in 2004.

"He won't be daunted," said Franklin. "Smith has got a hell of a record but what Brendon will worry about is... trying to get best out of us."