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Brendon McCullum: Cricket's game-changer



Photo: courtesy

|| AFP ||

Brendon McCullum has a huge task on his hands to lift English Test cricket from the doldrums but comes into the job having already had an influence on their limited-overs revival.

The 40-year-old New Zealander provided England with a template to follow which eventually led to a famous victory against his native side in the 2019 World Cup final.

England white-ball captain Eoin Morgan became a close friend of the swashbuckling batter while the pair were team-mates at the Kolkata Knight Riders in the Indian Premier League.

And McCullum's influence was evident during England's rise following a miserable first-round exit at the 2015 World Cup to a maiden global 50-over men's title four years later, by which time he had retired.

"He has certainly been an inspiration for me," Morgan said on the eve of the 2019 final at Lord's, where England defeated New Zealand in a thrilling Super Over finish. "He taught me a lot about leadership.

"He's always on the front foot and leading from the front, regardless of the scoreboard or the situation of the game."

McCullum takes over with England at a low ebb -- they have won just one of their past 17 Tests.

The New Zealander was picked for one of the most high-profile coaching roles in world cricket despite never having coached at first-class, let alone international, level.

But his attacking instincts should chime with those of new England captain Ben Stokes, with the all-rounder named as the successor to Joe Root as part of the restructuring of the Test side's hierarchy.

'Brash, arrogant' 

McCullum was by his own admission once "brash, aggressive and perhaps even arrogant" in the early years of a sparkling career across all formats.

His elevation to the New Zealand captaincy in 2012 was controversial, with Martin Crowe, one of his predecessors as skipper, burning his blazer in protest at the way Ross Taylor's reign came to an end.

McCullum soon concluded New Zealand were not making the most of their resources in a country in which rugby union's All Blacks dominate the national sporting landscape.

"Individually and collectively we lacked character," he recalled. 

"We were full of bluster and soft as putty. We wanted to be 'blue collar' in how we went about things, not aloof and superior."

McCullum became synonymous with aggressive batting, scoring a stunning 158 not out in the inaugural IPL fixture.

But he proved capable of landmark innings in five-day Test cricket as well, scoring 12 hundreds -- including a monumental 302 in nearly 13 hours against India at Wellington in 2014.

That epic knock meant McCullum, who relinquished the wicketkeeping gloves when he took over as captain, became the first New Zealand batter to score a triple-hundred in a Test.

There was no global trophy to show for McCullum's on-field efforts, with New Zealand overwhelmed by co-hosts Australia in the 2015 World Cup final.

He did, however, bow out of Test cricket in style a year later by compiling the format's fastest hundred, in terms of balls faced, off just 54 deliveries against Australia.

The breadth of his experiences in cricket, including coaching stints in the T20 franchise game, should help McCullum cope with the pressure of his England role, which begins with a series against his native New Zealand starting at Lord's on July 2.