Milestone man McCullum on the brink of greatness (Getty Images)
Wellington: New Zealand media dubbed triple centurion Brendon McCullum "Captain Fantastic", as Black Caps coach Mike Hesson said his unfancied team was finally reaching its potential.
"Our greatest innings," trumpeted the New Zealand Herald's front page on Wednesday, accompanied by a picture of McCullum with his arms aloft after scoring 302 in the second Test against India at Wellington's Basin Reserve.
"History maker," splashed Wellington's Dominion Post, highlighting some of the records McCullum shattered on his way to becoming the first New Zealander in 84 years of Test cricket to reach 300.
They included the longest-ever innings by a New Zealand batsman at 775 minutes, facing the most balls (559) and contributing to a national record Test innings score of 680.
"No wonder he looked so shattered," the Dominion Post said, adding that the tattooed 32-year-old had earned a place alongside the greats of New Zealand cricket.
While individual accolades were heaped on McCullum, the Black Caps also won collective praise for recent performances which have included Test series wins over India and the West Indies, as well as a 4-0 ODI triumph over Mahendra Singh Dhoni's men.
"It's been a heck of a summer," coach Hesson told commercial radio, saying New Zealand had a depth of playing talent that combined experience and youth.
"We've got some nice players around New Zealand at the moment and it's a matter of picking the right time to introduce them." Hesson, who faced a huge public backlash after installing McCullum as captain ahead of the popular Ross Taylor in late 2012, said the fans were now behind the team.
He said he had told his players that their support was not just because they were winning, but because of the positive attitude they brought to the game.
"(I said) the New Zealand public are behind you guys because of the way you're playing your cricket -- you're showing the fighting characteristics that, as New Zealanders, we love to see. But we know as a group that we've just turned a corner and we have to get better and better."
New Zealand Cricket board member Martin Snedden said the Black Caps' form provided a huge boost to the game as the country prepares to co-host the World Cup with Australia next year.
"We needed the home team to be firing to make sure people's enthusiasm was at the right levels and the team has responded brilliantly," said Snedden, who was in charge of organising the 2011 Rugby World Cup in New Zealand.
"So it's all good news for cricket in New Zealand at the moment."