Wellington - New Zealand cricket chiefs issued a public apology to axed captain Ross Taylor on Wednesday, as a weakened Black Caps side prepared to depart for South Africa without the in-form batsman.
Taylor opted to sit out the tour against the Proteas after being replaced as skipper by opener Brendon McCullum last Friday, leaving a gaping hole in the New Zealand batting line-up as the side faces the world's top-ranked Test team.
The axing also exposed deep divisions within New Zealand cricketing circles and provoked a backlash against administrators over Taylor's treatment.
New Zealand Cricket (NZC) chairperson Chris Moller acknowledged the issue could have been handled better, but stood by the decision to appoint McCullum and said there would be no sackings at the organisation.
"The board has reviewed all aspects of the captaincy issue and wishes to publicly place on record its apologies to Ross Taylor and his family for the manner in which events have unfolded," Moller told reporters.
The drama is a distraction any team poised to confront the Proteas at home could do without, let alone one ranked eighth in the world and already without star spinner Dan Vettori and gifted batsman Jesse Ryder.
"What's unfolding at the moment is very disappointing," McCullum, a close associate of coach Mike Hesson, told reporters this week after denying he had any role in Taylor's downfall.
"I'm sure that will all heal in due course," he added.
McCullum's optimism appears misplaced, as cricketing greats and media commentators called for heads to roll at NZC amid claims the sport has lost its way under the current leadership.
Former coach Mark Greatbatch called for Moller's departure on Wednesday, accusing him on commercial radio of being "involved with too many underhand dealings in the last two or three years".
Former captain Martin Crowe has demanded NZC's entire top echelon, including Hesson, stand down, saying they had permanently damaged cricket in New Zealand, where popularity for the sport runs a distant second to rugby union.
Taylor himself has accused NZC of lying by saying he was initially asked to stay on as Test captain when told before the first Test against Sri Lanka in Galle last month that the team's leadership would be changed.
Dominion Post columnist Mark Reason said Taylor was New Zealand's only Test-class batsman, averaging 43.45, and slammed the way he had been treated.
"Whatever happened to loyalty? New Zealand Cricket has shamed us all," he wrote.
However Taylor, who presided over a string of disappointing results in his 16 months as captain, has also faced criticism, with the New Zealand Herald's Chris Rattue accusing him of abandoning a team that desperately needs him.
"(He) is starting to come across as a prima donna," Rattue wrote, saying the South Africa tour was looming as a potential disaster without him.