'Kane did an outstanding job as captain' - McCullum
Having literally flung himself into injury in an ODI late last month, Brendon McCullum earned a four-week glimpse into his future. McCullum aggravated a back complaint when he dove into advertising hoardings, attempting to save a boundary in the second ODI against Sri Lanka.
Since then he has watched Kane Williamson lead the New Zealand side, and spent time on his horse racing hobby - both of which he seems destined to spend more time doing when he draws the curtain on his career at the end of February. He had decided horse racing was "a tough business" on the eve of his likely cricketing return, against Pakistan, but was more impressed with the New Zealand team's performance in his absence. They had won two out of three ODIs and four out of five T20s under Williamson this season.
"I thought Kane did an outstanding job as captain," McCullum said. "You're pretty proud when you step back and see that the team still has the same strong values that you tried to instill within the group over the period of time."
Henry Nicholls hit his first international fifty, and Corey Anderson made a successful return from back injury, while McCullum was unavailable.
"It's hard because you don't want to pry too much either. You want to give guys the space to operate without you. I've been really impressed with what we've seen from the younger guys as well. They've taken to the environment really quickly. They've had some clear role clarity as well, which is easily seen when they come in and have success in their positions."
New Zealand's success has come despite a slew of injuries to key players. McCullum said the constant change in personnel over the past few weeks did not necessitate a substantial change in strategy, thanks largely to the depth in New Zealand's stocks at present.
"We've tried to play a reasonably consistent brand of cricket," he said. "Credit to the selectors and the coaching staff on being able to implement a gameplan which has built up some depth. When guys do come in, they don't have to differ their roles greatly from what they've done at domestic cricket. That's why we've had some success this year with guys on the periphery of the squad as well. They know what their job is, and can go out and execute."
McCullum has four ODIs and two Tests remaining in his international career, and he said the break had not dulled his desire. He spoke of his decision to retire as having given him mental freedom.
"If anything, it's probably a release of pressure when you know that the time in the spotlight is starting to come towards the end," he said. "I'm just looking forward to the last month of being around the boys, playing amongst the New Zealand cricket team, and having a good time. Hopefully if we can win a few games and continue what we've done over the last 12-18 months - the things that have put smiles on the faces of New Zealand fans.
"Those that know me know I'm either all-in or all out. I'm committed through to the end of the Australian series. I'm really excited about that. I've got a little bit of fight left in me for that series."
Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. @andrewffernando