Why McCul­lum’s so spe­cial


I’ve been watch­ing Bren­don McCul­lum and won­der­ing for years. Now I’m sure. He is the most thrilling – and maybe the most in­flu­en­tial – crick­eter New Zealand has pro­duced.

Old timers and cricket his­to­ri­ans will men­tion Bert Sut­cliffe and John Reid, Glenn Turner and Richard Hadlee, Martin Crowe and Chris Cairns. Give me McCul­lum any day. To start with, he’s the best cap­tain New Zealand has had.

We’ve had no­table test cap­tains be­fore: Tom Lowry, the pi­o­neer; Wal­ter Hadlee with his ac­coun­tant’s metic­u­lous­ness; John Reid, lead­ing from the front; Ge­off Howarth, a pro­fes­sional skip­per; Stephen Flem­ing, cal­cu­lat­ing and calm. But McCul­lum is bet­ter.

He rates along­side Richie Be­naud, Ian Chap­pell, Mike Brear­ley, Frank Wor­rell and other fa­mous test cap­tains.

As com­men­ta­tor Mark Ni­cholas put it, he is more All Black than Black Cap. He leads his team like Buck Shelford led the All Blacks, from the front.

He knows his op­po­nents and hatches plans for them, mov­ing field­s­men to un­usual po­si­tions, con­stantly keep­ing bats­men on edge.

McCul­lum be­gan his test ca­reer as a wick­et­keeper and he was ex­cel­lent. But he has given up the gloves, ap­par­ently be­cause of back prob­lems.

You wouldn’t know it be­cause he is some field­s­man, fast, at­tack­ing and alert.

He has in­spired the cur­rent New Zealand team to field­ing heights few sides have matched.

As a bats­man, McCul­lum has al­ways been spe­cial. On his test de­but against South Africa, bat­ting at No 8, he looked en­tirely se­cure against Shaun Pol­lock, Makhaya Ntini, Jac­ques Kal­lis et al, mak­ing 57 and 19 not out.

For years, his bat­ting never blos­somed be­cause his role kept chang­ing, and be­cause he was keep­ing.

Since he be­came cap­tain, his bat­ting has been re­mark­able for its con­sis­tency and ag­gres­sion.

He has scored New Zealand’s only test triple cen­tury, a match­sav­ing 302 in more than nine hours against In­dia at the Basin Re­serve.

In ad­di­tion, he has scored 224, 225 and 202 in tests. That’s four test scores over 200, when the likes of Be­van Cong­don, John Reid ( both of them), Jeremy Coney and An­drew Jones never man­aged one.

The pace he scores at is in­cred­i­ble. He raced to 195 against Sri Lanka in Christchurch in De­cem- ber, belt­ing 18 fours and 11 sixes in a 134-ball blitz. It was the sort of sus­tained hit­ting rarely seen in the test arena.

McCul­lum has trans­ported the skills and dar­ing of Twenty20 and one-day cricket to tests.

In limited overs cricket he is a one-off. Few will for­get his innings in the first IPL match played. Open­ing for Kolkata in a space- age gold hel­met, he de­stroyed Ban­ga­lore, smash­ing 158 not out off 73 balls, the high­est Twenty20 score un­til then.

Now he’s lead­ing New Zealand at the World Cup.

He has taken the coun­try with him, and had done so even be­fore that fu­ri­ous 77 off 25 balls against Eng­land in Welling­ton.

Maybe his team will cre­ate his- tory and win the World Cup.

All power to McCul­lum if they do.

But if New Zealand fal­ter, I’ll still feel the same about the lit­tle bloke from south Dunedin.

He is a rare player who in­flu­ences the way a sport is played. I don’t ex­pect to see his like again, es­pe­cially from New Zealand.


Inim­itable: Bren­don McCul­lum – in­ven­tive, dar­ing and pun­ish­ing.

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