'McCullum's a born leader' - Southee

Tim Southee has praised the leadership of Brendon McCullum, who took over the New Zealand captaincy late last year after the fallout between Ross Taylor and coach Mike Hesson.

After a nightmare start to 2013 in South Africa, the team's fortunes have steadily improved, most recently in March when they came within one wicket of a series win over England. One of the visible features of McCullum's short captaincy has been his attacking mindset in the field.

In a wide-ranging interview with Alison Mitchell for ESPNcricinfo's Tea Break, Southee said McCullum's attitude gave New Zealand the best chance to win.

"He's a born leader," Southee said of McCullum. "He's a thinker of the game. He's a proactive captain. He's willing to chance his arm to try and get his side ahead, and that's not always going to work, but he's willing to try something to get ahead in the game. He's got a great cricket brain and [is] just a natural leader, so he's got that respect in the changing room amongst most guys."

McCullum's latest challenge is to lead the side in the return series in England, where New Zealand will play two Tests and three ODIs. After New Zealand's performances at home there is a belief that they can push No. 2-ranked England close again. Southee said it is important that impressive performances, like the ones they produced earlier this year, are not exceptions if the team is to move up the rankings.

"If we do well over here in their conditions it will show that what we did in New Zealand wasn't just a one-off, and hopefully we can start to gain a bit more respect in Test cricket. Over the last couple of years we haven't been where we want to be and if we do well over here I guess it will be a step in the right direction for us as a Test nation."