McCullum an extraordinary leader
SPORTS TALK BY JOSEPH ROMANOS
New Zealand has been playing test cricket since 1930. Finally, after 85 years, it has become a pioneer, a role model for international sides.
The credit, of course, goes primarily to captain Brendon McCullum, with support from coach Mike Hesson.
McCullum is a once-in-a-generation player. Not only has he scored a test triple century and three doubles, but he is a sensation in the limited-overs arena, too. He was a quality wicketkeeper, but because of back problems gave up the gloves and is now one of the best fieldsmen around.
Since becoming New Zealand captain in late 2012, McCullum has proved an extraordinary leader. Not only has he led New Zealand to its most successful era, including seven consecutive test series without defeat and the final of the World Cup, but he has empowered his players.
BJ Watling, Kane William- son, Trent Boult, Tim Southee, Mark Craig and others have prospered under his guidance.
McCullum’s natural instinct is to attack and back his ability. It turns out many of the New Zealand team have unusual ability when given the encouragement to show it. It’s not all helter-skelter stuff, though.
McCullum batted 13 hours to score 302 against India at the Basin Reserve last year, saving the test.
At Headingley last week, while other New Zealand batsmen were blazing away, he shored up the innings with a sober half-century that put his team in an impregnable position.
Around the world, notables such as Ian Chappell and Michael Vaughan have complimented McCullum on his adventurous captaincy. England vicecaptain Jos Buttler said it was important England learned lessons from McCullum.
New Zealand has generally achieved test successes by attrition, by being disciplined and outwaiting the opposition.
Even in the halcyon days of the 1980s, when Richard Hadlee and Martin Crowe were in their pomp, there was never the sense of daring in our cricket that McCullum has introduced.
But to my mind, McCullum’s real legacy will be in behaviour.
Who’d have thought the heavily tattooed bloke from south Dunedin, the man who loved a pint and a punt, would become a world leader in rekindling the spirit of cricket?
Under his captaincy, New Zealand doesn’t indulge in the juvenile sledging that has become so common in cricket.
New Zealand’s exemplary behaviour makes the Aussies seem even more boorish by comparison.
Many opponents – even England – have responded and games have been played in fine spirit.
Asked if his team was too nice, McCullum replied: ‘‘The talking is rubbish. What matters is how you play, not what you say.’’
All power to him.