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England and Brendon McCullum: A match made in heaven?

Former New Zealand skipper Brendon McCullum has been appointed as the head coach of England Men's Test Team.
Former New Zealand skipper Brendon McCullum has been appointed as the head coach of England Men's Test Team.

On June 20, 2015, at Chester-Le-Street, as Jonny Bairstow sliced a delivery to backward point for a couple of runs, the whole England dressing room erupted with ecstasy. They had just completed an ODI series win over New Zealand.

Jonny Bairstow took in all the applause with his arms aloft as the crowd went wild, roaring boisterously. This might have looked like just a bilateral series win for any other team, but for England this was much more.

It was the dawn of a new era for the limited overs' side after the eternal darkness which had engulfed the side post the disastrous 2015 Cricket World Cup campaign.

However, the true protagonist behind this transformation was none other than the opposition skipper, Brendon McCullum.

How did Brendon McCullum transform the England limited-overs side?

BREAKING: Brendon McCullum has been appointed England Men's Test Head Coach ๐Ÿด๓ ง๓ ข๓ ฅ๓ ฎ๓ ง๓ ฟ๐Ÿ https://t.co/6VN3KboI3h

Exactly four months prior to this match, on February 20, 2015, England and New Zealand locked horns in the league stage of the 2015 CWC at Eden Park in Auckland. The Kiwis simply blew the English into smithereens.

Batting first, England were bundled out for 123, before Brendon McCullum butchered the hapless English with 77 off 25 deliveries. The embarrassment was palpable in the English camp and they were unable to come out of it.

As a result, they exited the 2015 CWC in the group stages following another embarrassing loss to Bangladesh.

England had to initiate an overhaul of their limited overs' setup, and their skipper Eoin Morgan decided to take lessons from their massacre at Eden Park.

The limited overs' specialists were drafted into the side with the inclusion of fiery openers Jason Roy and Alex Hales, while the Test specialists found themselves out of favor. This meant an end for Ian Bell, Gary Ballance, James Anderson, and Stuart Broad.

As fate would have it, England's first ODI assignment after the World Cup was against the Kiwis themselves on English shores. This was the time of redemption and England played accordingly.

It started with the first ODI in Birmingham, where England crossed the 400-run mark for the first time as they demolished the Kiwi side by 210 runs. But this win alone was not enough. They chased down 350 in 44 overs in the fourth match of the series, en route to their 3-2 series win.

Jos Buttler was one of the many heroes for England to help them win the ODI series against New Zealand in 2015. He had scored 129 (77) in the first ODI
Jos Buttler was one of the many heroes for England to help them win the ODI series against New Zealand in 2015. He had scored 129 (77) in the first ODI

The English side had beaten New Zealand at their own game and this was the start of their journey which led to their triumph at Lord's four years later, against the very same foes. As David Lloyd simply put it, "Redemption is well and truly complete."

However, the man behind England's triumph went uncredited for leading England's transformation. This was the same man who had torn apart the English side single-handedly and taught them a lesson. The man was Brendon McCullum.

Brendon McCullum and the reset of the England Test team

The failures of the England Test team since the start of 2021 have been well documented. In their last 17 Tests, England have won just one, drawn four, and lost 12.

Despite numerous calls from former English cricketers and cricket experts to bring reforms to Test cricket, the English Cricket Board (ECB) refused to believe that their Test team was drowning.

Post the Ashes defeat earlier this year, however, the ECB started to sense that something was wrong with English Test cricket. The selectors made some radical selections, axing James Anderson and Stuart Broad for their tour of the West Indies in March. The tour was supposed to be a reset of sorts for the Test team.

England repeated their old mistakes despite touring the West Indies with a relatively young squad as they lost the series 0-1
England repeated their old mistakes despite touring the West Indies with a relatively young squad as they lost the series 0-1

However, England lost the series 0-1 to the West Indies and the alarm bells finally rang loud enough for the ECB and the board of selectors. This eventually led to bringing some reforms to their cricket board and Test setup.

For starters, former England batsman Rob Key was appointed to the post of Managing Director of the ECB. Starting his tenure, his first decision was to appoint Ben Stokes as the new Test captain following the dismal captaincy record of Joe Root.

In an interview, Rob Key stated that he wanted a captain of the Test team who could urge his players to jump off the cliff for him, and Ben Stokes fit that criteria. He also stated that he looked at two head coaches for the English team, one for the Test and one for the limited-overs.

Inside the same week, Brendon McCullum was selected as the head coach of the England Test team. An overhaul of the board members in the last two weeks has given real hopes of resetting their Test side.

Problems galore for England in Test Cricket

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England's batting failures have gone into folklore, with their batting line-up showing remarkable consistency in capitulating every time they are faced with a difficult situation. Except Joe Root, none of the batters have scored enough to automatically get drafted into the playing XI.

The reason has been that the top order have failed to show any intent and Root has always come to the crease with his team 10/2. The failure can also be attributed to the lack of intent shown by the likes of Rory Burns, Haseeb Hameed, Alex Lees, and even Dominic Sibley.

Players who did show intent like Ollie Pope and Jos Buttler failed to balance their aggression in crunch situations, hence they found themselves out of reckoning.

Ben Stokes also advocated for the return of pace stalwarts James Anderson and Stuart Broad following their axing post-Ashes. But with age not on their side, it remains to be seen how long the two bowlers can stretch themselves for their team.

While the ECB took the bold decision to drop Anderson and Broad in the West Indies, it presented a golden opportunity for the other bowlers to stand up. However, none of the bowlers were able to impress. Chris Woakes failed to show any bite with the new ball, while Ollie Robinson got injured and was ruled out.

Rob Key admitted that it was the temptation to make a difference in English Cricket which allowed him to take the role of Managing Director in the ECB.
Rob Key admitted that it was the temptation to make a difference in English Cricket which allowed him to take the role of Managing Director in the ECB.

Role of Brendon McCullum in reviving England's fortunes in Test Cricket

Brendon McCullum is no stranger to becoming the captain of a scuttled ship. He took over the captaincy mantle of the New Zealand side at a time when the team was mediocre. His main emphasis as captain was not to win matches, but to make cricketers realize their responsibility and make them better people.

His philosophy did wonders for his team as New Zealand transformed into a world-beating side, particularly at home. They adopted the persona of their captain, to play hard but fair.

It could not be more evident than in the Cricket World Cup 2015, when they won the hearts of every cricket fan with their sportsmanship and their brand of cricket.

Brendon McCullum will play an active role in reviving England's fortunes this time, unlike how he revived England's limited-overs cricket. He will have his task cut out, from halting England's losing streak to creating a new core for the team.

England are currently at the bottom of the table in the World Test Championship for the 2021-23 cycle. With their hopes of reaching the finals slim, it gives an excellent opportunity for Brendon McCullum and his team to rise from the Ashes (both literally and figuratively).

While Brendon McCullum and Ben Stokes would want their team to play with freedom, they would also expect some solidity, particularly from a batting standpoint.

Stokes hinted that he would be batting at No. 6, while Root would bat at No. 4. This means there could be a shake-up in the batting order during the Test series against New Zealand.

Opener Zak Crawley could be pushed to No. 3 and the selectors would have to think about finding a partner for Alex Lees at the top. With the exception of Anderson, Broad, and Woakes, none of the other bowlers are guaranteed a place in the side from a bowling standpoint.

This certainly means that a relatively new squad will take the field on June 2 at Lord's.

This gives the perfect opportunity for Brendon McCullum and Ben Stokes to shape a new team from scratch and instill their brand of play in the side.

While the combination of Ben Stokes and Brendon McCullum does look like they have the ability to take their team out of the rubble, England will only hope that there is no fallout between them.

If the two are not able to dig their team out of the hole, it would really mean a dead-end for the England Test side. Brendon McCullum has much riding on him with his new job.

Despite having a stellar run as a batter in 2021, Joe Root failed to find any batter to stick with him in tough situations as England endured a losing-streak.
Despite having a stellar run as a batter in 2021, Joe Root failed to find any batter to stick with him in tough situations as England endured a losing-streak.

Seven years ago, England started their road to transformation in ODIs against the Kiwis. This time too, England's first checkpoint in their journey to transformation will be the Kiwis. Will history repeat itself, with Brendon McCullum in charge, albeit in a different format?

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Edited by Akshay Saraswat
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