Brendon McCullum will spend New Zealand's off-season pondering his future as a Test wicketkeeper after the successful emergence of Gareth Hopkins in the shorter formats. McCullum opens in one-day and Twenty20 internationals but bats at No. 7 in the Test team and made his fifth century against Australia in Wellington this week, an innings he described as his best Test hundred.
Although McCullum has for many years been considered the best wicketkeeper-batsman in New Zealand, he has expressed a desire to hang up the gloves and focus on his batting. During the Twenty20s and ODIs against Australia, Hopkins kept wicket and proved a very handy lower-order batsman and New Zealand will discuss whether that could work at Test level as well.
The main problem is that McCullum's run scoring in Test cricket has been less consistent than in the shorter formats, although in the past year he has lifted his output and has made three centuries and averaged 48.60. It appears likely that Hopkins will retain the gloves for the upcoming ICC World Twenty20, but New Zealand have no Tests scheduled in the next few months, so McCullum has time to consider his five-day future.
"We've got a few months coming up that we've got off, so it's something that we've got to try and weigh up during that downtime," McCullum said. "At the moment I'm very much fixed on making sure that I can make a contribution in this next Test match as a wicketkeeper-batsman. I have to continuously score runs to warrant a place in the top six."
The captain Daniel Vettori said it was a matter of team balance in each format as to whether McCullum could play purely as a batsman. The two men have spoken about the issue but have not yet come to a resolution as to what is best for the Test outfit.
"It's a tough one," Vettori said. "Brendon and I have had a number of discussions on it. The emergence of Gareth Hopkins in the limited overs has probably made the decision a little bit easier if it does go that way. But I still think Brendon is one of the best wicketkeeper-batsmen in the world.
"If we can get him for all forms of the game that would be great, but we also understand that probably in one-dayers and Twenty20, his runs are the most important thing to us. If that's the best thing for the team then I support it."
Brydon Coverdale is a staff writer at Cricinfo