Brendon McCullum's Kiwis set to Test Aussies
WHILE Australian selectors ponder over which batsmen to bring into the side following the retirements of Michael Clarke and Chris Rogers, their New Zealand counterparts have no such concerns.
Injuries aside, the only position up for grabs in the Black Caps' XI ahead of the coming three-Test series against Australia is the third seamer, with Matt Henry and Doug Bracewell the obvious candidates.
Unbeaten in its past seven Test series, the Black Caps, under the leadership of veteran opening batsman Brendon McCullum (pictured), are within one good series of the No.2 position in the ICC rankings, thanks largely to the maturity of players including Kane Williamson, Martin Guptill, Ross Taylor, BJ Watling, Tim Southee and Trent Boult.
Despite its record here - New Zealand has won just three Tests in this country, in Brisbane and Perth in 1985 and Hobart in 2011 - the tourists have an opportunity to take advantage of Australia's post-Ashes rebuild.
And McCullum, who has formed a formidable partnership with coach Mike Hesson, is just the man to lead the way.
He has galvanised his players into competing consistently against the world's best, along the way compiling the best record of any New Zealand captain.
The 34-year-old's nine wins from 24 Tests (37.50%), puts him ahead of Geoff Howarth (11 from 30 for 36.67%) and Stephen Fleming (28 from 80 for 35%).
While his batting statistics in Australia have been well below his career numbers, a sparkling 58 off 49 balls against a Cricket Australia XI in Canberra yesterday showed he was in a good position to make amends this summer.
In 12 innings in Australia he averages just 22.90 with a top score of 84 not out, compared to a career average of 38.76, and an impressive 57.50 in the past two years.
He led New Zealand to five Test wins in 2014 - its most successful calendar year - and said after the series in England earlier this year he hoped his back could hold out long enough to enjoy the fruits of the team's hard work.
"We've scaled some heights that hadn't been done before by our country and we're starting to build a soul to how we play," he said.
"I'm lucky enough to be in a position of leadership to give guys the freedom to play that brand.
"The body's a bit sore but we'll see what happens."
Luckily his dodgy back hasn't prevented him from racking up 94 consecutive Tests, putting him fifth on the all-time list. The only players ahead of him are Allan Border (153), Alastair Cook (119), Mark Waugh (107) and Sunil Gavaskar (106).
- with Andrew Alderson of APNZ