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England-New Zealand series

McCullum aims to rid England of 'fear of failure'


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England's new Test coach Brendon McCullum hopes his outsider status as a New Zealander will help rid the under-performing team of their "fear of failure" after a dismal 15 months.

The former Kiwi captain -- appointed earlier this month -- has inherited an England side that sits rock bottom of the World Test Championship with just one win in 17 Tests.

England -- also with a new captain in charge in Ben Stokes -- face a tough start against New Zealand in the first of a three-match series at Lord's, beginning next Thursday.

They then play India in a single Test after the fifth match of last year's series was called off due to a coronavirus outbreak, before a series against South Africa.

The 40-year-old McCullum believes the strain of playing so much cricket during stifling coronavirus restrictions was a major factor in England's poor run of form, which included a 4-0 Ashes drubbing.

"I think the bubbles were difficult for them (England)," McCullum told reporters at Lord's on Friday. "And when you lose one or two games that can snowball."

"I see guys who are maybe just a little bit struck by the fear of failure rather than the possibility of success," added the former New Zealand skipper, who explained he wanted a relaxed approach that would strip players of unwanted "baggage".

"If we can do that, talent can come to the fore."

 'Might be terrible' 

Many of England's best results in the past 25 years have come under overseas coaches, with Zimbabwe's Duncan Fletcher and his compatriot Andy Flower chalking up notable successes.

In white-ball cricket England's men won a maiden 50-over World Cup title in 2019 when Australia's Trevor Bayliss was in charge.

"It's funny how that's worked out," said McCullum. "I've spoken to both Andy and also Trevor Bayliss in a little bit of depth about the challenge and what it entails, and both were pretty similar in their views that you've just got to try and take pressure away from the guys.

"Maybe that's the thing with being overseas, you can identify that and go about trying to bring that simplified method in, rather than maybe if you are English, you're probably a little bit more involved in the whole thing throughout."

He added: "I don't know, maybe it's a coincidence, but we'll find out. I might be terrible."

Pacemen James Anderson and Stuart Broad are in the squad announced for the first two New Zealand Tests after England's two most successful Test bowlers of all time were controversially left out of a recent series loss in the Caribbean.

Should McCullum, who lauded the pair's physical and mental toughness, see out his four-year contract, the likelihood is that both England greats will retire on his watch.

The New Zealander said the two should think about how they want to leave the game.

"If you do that and you understand your mortality as a cricketer, I think you're then really able to enjoy and really find that sweet spot in the final years of your career," he said.

"But for now, we should enjoy the fact we've got them in our bowling unit."

As for coaching against New Zealand, the "staunch Kiwi" said the "enticing opportunity" of trying to revive England would ease any awkward emotions.

"I've invested a lot of my life in trying to perform for New Zealand and I feel I left the camp in a better position than I took it over," he said. "And I'm very proud of that.

"It'll be difficult, no doubt, looking across the New Zealand balcony at times, but that's just life."