* McCullum faces baptism of fire against South Africa, England (Updates with confirmation, details, quotes)
WELLINGTON, Dec 7 (Reuters) - Ross Taylor will take a break from cricket after rejecting an offer to remain captain of New Zealand's test team but give up the role in the shorter forms of the game, New Zealand Cricket said on Friday.
Wicketkeeper batsman Brendon McCullum, who had been tapped to lead the one-day and Twenty20 sides, will take on all three roles and faces a baptism of fire with upcoming series against top-ranked South Africa and England.
The announcement capped days of speculation about Taylor's tenure, with local media reporting a split between head coach Mike Hesson and the 28-year-old batsman.
New Zealand Cricket boss David White said Hesson had recommended Taylor step down from the captaincy of the shorter formats as part of a review following the team's tour of Sri Lanka, where they drew a two-test series 1-1.
"We regret that Ross Taylor has declined the opportunity, therefore McCullum has been appointed as Blackcaps captain for all three forms of the game," White told reporters at a media conference in Auckland.
"He thought about it long and hard and he said that he would like a break to spend time with his family and we've agreed to that and we respect it."
Taylor's decision robs New Zealand of their top batsman for at least the two-test tour of South Africa later this month and adds to the team's woes with former skipper Daniel Vettori almost certain to miss out due to a lingering Achilles injury.
"It's not ideal and we would be a stronger team with Ross Taylor in it," White said.
Taylor replaced Vettori as captain in June last year, and although guiding New Zealand to a breakthrough test win in Australia, was under pressure in 2012.
His team slumped to test series defeats at home to South Africa and then away to the West Indies and India.
Taylor scored 142 and 74 in his last two innings as he led from the front to guide New Zealand to a rare away test win over Sri Lanka in Colombo, but local media were swirling with reports of his demise throughout the week.
His record in the shorter formats was also questioned after his team crashed out of the World Twenty20 tournament in Sri Lanka at the Super Eights stage and lost 10 of their 14 completed one-day internationals this year.
Taylor's batting average, however, had actually improved since he took over the captaincy. In his 13 test matches as skipper he scored 1,047 runs at 49.85 with three centuries, while he had a career average of 43.57 in 43 tests overall.
In one-day internationals, Taylor had scored 795 runs in 20 matches as skipper at an average of 46.76, while he scored 3,408 runs in 116 ODIs at an average of 37.86 overall.
The 31-year-old McCullum, who had been considered a strong candidate to take over from Vettori last year, has played 70 test matches at an average of 35.63 and 206 one-day internationals. (Reporting by Ian Ransom in Melbourne; Editing by Nick Mulvenney)
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