NZ ushers in new cricket era
New Zealand has been playing test cricket since 1930. Finally, after 85 years, we’ve 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 generation player.
He scored a test triple century and three doubles, and is also a sensation in the limit-overs arena, too.
He was a quality wicketkeeper, but because of back problems he 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 in its most successful era, including seven consecutive test series without defeat and the final of the Cricket World Cup, but he has empowered his players.
B J Watling, Kane Williamson, Trent Boult, Tim Southee, Mark Craig and others have prospered under his guidance.
once- in- a-
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 for 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 halfcentury 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 vice-captain Jos Buttler said it was important that 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. Like all New Zealand rugby fans, I was shocked by the death, at only 34, of Jerry Collins, the Porirua boy who became a fine All Black.
Since his death in a motor accident in France, Collins has been described as a ‘‘ hard man’’, a ‘‘human wrecking ball’’ and so on.
It’s true he was a bruising loose forward, but I also think of him as an unbeaten test captain – in three matches – and a bloke who loved rugby so much that even when rested by rep selectors, he would turn out for his club.
There aren’t many around like that. Jerry Collins was special.
Brendon McCullum, right, shakes hands with England captain Alastair Cook after New Zealand’s comprehensive test win at Headingley last week.