How Brendon McCullum changed New Zealand cricket forever
24 March,2015- It was the first semi-final of the 2015 ODI World Cup between New Zealand and South Africa. Batting first, South Africa posted a mammoth total of 281 in their alloted 43 overs. As per the Duckworth-Lewis system, New Zealand were set a target of 298 in 43 overs- a huge target. The occasion of the semi-final could have intimidated most players, but not Brendon McCullum.
The flamboyant skipper of the Kiwi side came out all guns blazing and took apart the South African bowling which had the likes of Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel and Vernon Philander. His 59 off just 26 balls set the tone for what turned out to be a thrilling victory for the Kiwis, and the win ensured that they reached their first World Cup final.
This is Brendon McCullum for you, a fiesty character who is not perturbed by any tense circumstance. An entertainer for whom pressure is non existant. A skipper for whom the opposition never mattered.
A true entertainer who who brought people back to the stadium
Despite all the tensions and expectations that the modern day cricket brings to the table, one thing that can’t be ignored is that cricket is a game which was meant to be played for the purpose of entertainment. McCullum is the true entertainer in modern day cricket. Players like McCullum bring new fans to the game with their breath-taking skills and exquisite strokeplay.
In the last decade there were apprehensions that New Zealand might lose cricket from its sporting culture as games like Rugby were making their mark in the nation. What McCullum ensured with his brilliance was that the youngsters in Kiwi setup still look at cricket as a promising career and they have dreams that they can be future entertainers like McCullum as well.
A captain par excellence who groomed a lot of Kiwi youngsters
When McCullum took over the captaincy reigns of New Zealand, his country’s cricket was in total mess. Ross Taylor, their marquee batsman was unhappy with the decision of him being removed as the New Zealand captain, Kiwi batsmen were making totals which were well below par and their bowling was struggling to dismiss opposition batsmen. Consequently, New Zealand were lingering in the bottom half of the rankings in almost all the formats of the game.
In McCullum’s captaincy, New Zealand reached the ODI World Cup final, won many crucial Test series and are now a T20 team to reckon with. McCullum wasn’t a conventional captain by any stretch of imagination for he brought a fresh breath of air to the art of captaincy. In Test matches, there were times when more than half the Kiwi side was behind the batsman, and in limited overs, he allowed his batsmen full freedom to have a go at the opposition bowling. His bowling changes were immaculate and his fielding positions were innovative and efficient.
It was his captaincy that nurtured young bowlers like Trent Boult and Tim Southee and made them true match winners and played a part in making Kane Williamson a true modern day batting great. New Zealand cricket will forever remain indebted to McCullum for nurturing a host of youngsters and turning them into match winners.
A sportsman who brought heaps of praises for his country
When Alastair Cook was struggling with his form and captaincy in 2014, McCullum dropped him a message which read ‘Tough times don’t last, but tough blokes do’. A message like this to an opposition captain showed the brilliant nature of McCullum.
When cricket was shaken apart by the untimely demise of Phillip Hughes, McCullum set an unprecedent example by telling his team to not celebrate a wicket or milestone during their Test match with Pakistan. It was a brilliant show of sportsmanship from the whole Kiwi side and it told the world that however competitive the game gets, nothing can take away the humanitarian side of the game.
New Zealand have decimated oppositions under McCullum but they will be remembered more as the side that played the game in the right spirit. McCullum’s nature to play the game in the right spirit set an example which was followed by the whole Kiwi team. Grant Elliot’s gesture after the World Cup semi-final was appreciated throughout the cricketing fraternity.
Though McCullum has announced his retirement from cricket, but his contribution to New Zealand cricket is worth its weight in gold. His amazing strokeplay will inspire many in New Zealand cricket to take up cricket, his captaincy skills will provide great lessons to the future generations, and his sportsmanship is arguably his greatest contribution to the game.
Hail the man from Dunedin who changed the game’s outlook in his country. And yes, we are assured now Mr McCullum, from your fighting spirit, that men from South Dunedin do not cry(this is what he said after his triple hundred against India).