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.