The New Zealand cricket captain Brendon McCullum has told the BBC the Black Caps were once "overpaid prima donnas", but England should fear the much-changed side as they begin the two-test series.
New Zealand lost 2-0 on their last tour of England in 2013, when they were ranked eighth in the Test standings.
But the Black Caps have won four of their past six series to rise to third, two places ahead of England.
McCullum said the side is much better than two years ago and "we've grown up a lot."
Since McCullum took over as captain, New Zealand have risen from eighth in the Test rankings and ninth in the ODI rankings to third in both formats.
"How we were viewed two years ago was that we were overpaid, under-delivering prima donnas, and a lot of that was fair," he said.
"We hit rock bottom but that allowed us to strip everything out and plot a pathway forward.
Rockbottom was in South Africa in January 2013 when they lost each of the two tests by more than an innings.
"One of the things that we decided we had to change was the public perception of us as people, not just on the cricket field but off it as well.
"The changes we have made have endeared us to our public and let's hope that continues for a long time."
McCullum feels the team's recent success has also been underpinned by a new-found aggressive, carefree approach.
"One of the things which Mike (Hesson, coach) has tried to instil is to play like the kids who fell in love with the game," he said.
"We've got a good squad. We've played some really good cricket over the last 12 to 24 months - we've progressed up the rankings, which was no easy feat considering where were 24 months ago.
"I know we'll compete and we've got a good opportunity. The core nucleus of the group has remained [from 2013], but we've learnt some lessons.
"The coaches empower players to make decisions for themselves, to exhibit their skills in the manner in which they grew up watching the game.
"'If in doubt, always take the aggressive option' is one of our big catch-cries. I make sure I play with a full heart and no fear, just go out there and try and take games by the scruff of the neck."
Despite having built his reputation mainly on his explosive batting performances in limited-overs cricket, McCullum insists that Test cricket remains the pre-eminent form of the game in his eyes.
"You fail more times than you succeed in Test cricket, but when you do have success you know that you've had to earn it."