NZ ush­ers in new cricket era

Kapi-Mana News - - SPORT - JOSEPH ROMANOS

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.

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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.

Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Bren­don McCul­lum, right, shakes hands with Eng­land cap­tain Alas­tair Cook af­ter New Zealand’s com­pre­hen­sive test win at Head­in­g­ley last week.

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