New Zealand vs Australia 2016: Only few get to write the perfect final chapter like Brendon McCullum
I remember watching the Dark Knight and the film ending with Commissioner Gordon’s monologue-- as Batman disappeared into the darkness-- about Batman being the silent guardian, the watchful protector, the Dark Knight.
Those final few words really drove home the essence of the movie to the viewers. There could not have been a better way to end that film, and that final monologue had lifted, what upto that point had been a very enjoyable film, into an even higher, a more select category of memorable films.
Undoubtedly, each viewer is free to decide eventually how much he liked the film and the overall opinion of the film will vary from person to person, but there will be few who will dispute the positive impact that the ending had on the overall experience of the film.
McCullum’s perfect ending
Finding a perfect ending is the holy grail for fiction writers, and there are many that have failed to deliver on that front. Think of Lost, Seinfeld, Sopranos, Django Unchained, these are some great shows and films that let the viewers down with a poor ending.
Even having an average ending is a disappointment for the writer, as it fails to deliver the final surge of emotion that every writer wants his viewer or reader to experience. To find the absolute perfect ending to a story is a rarity, and very few writers have been able to achieve it.
Fiction writers have the luxury to control the narrative of the story in any which way they want. They have absolute control over all elements of the story, and if even with all this control so many have failed to find the perfect ending to their story, just think of how hard it must be to have a perfect ending to a story in real life sports, where one can barely control one’s own actions, let alone that of others.
Today, a maverick from New Zealand was just able to achieve this nearly impossible task, and he made it look extremely simple and effortless. Walking into bat in his final Test, Brendon McCullum must have wanted to leave a mark, but surely, even he wouldn't have anticipated what was to follow.
Philosophers often debate whether free will exists or not. Going into details of the arguments, either way, is clearly beyond the scope of this article, but it would be sufficient to say that if free will does exist, like most people believe, it is most easily to be found in Brendon McCullum’s batting.
Throughout his career, McCullum has batted purely based on how he wanted to bat, and nothing has ever dictated terms to him in that regard. Be it a green wicket helping seamers or a dry pitch assisting the spinners, be it overcast conditions, or a hot humid day, whether his team’s score is 300/1 or 40/3, McCullum has never let anything come in the way of how he wants to bat.
He has always played the game in he manner he wanted to play it. If that is not free will, then nothing is.
McCullum, because of his positive outlook to batting, whatever the conditions of the pitch, the weather or the match situation, became a crowd favourite very early in his career. Wherever he played, be it in New Zealand or the IPL, he has helped sell out stadiums.
Sportsmen who can do that come along rarely, and McCullum has done that for a vast majority of his career. Granted his methods have not always worked, but that's the nature of sports-- no one can be successful all the time.
The final chapter- a memorable one
Walking into bat today, it would have been easy for McCullum to have been cowed down by the situation. Not only was there the pressure to deliver one last time for his fans, but there was the also the pressure of the Kiwi batting line up on the verge of another collapse that could have cost them the series.
The pitch was green, the ball was seaming around, and the Australian bowlers were dishing out maiden overs one after the other. New Zealand were 32/3 when McCullum walked into bat, and as he started the final chapter of his career, the situation and conditions of the match could not have been more adverse for him.
His wicket at that stage would have been pivotal, and naturally, nobody would have blamed McCullum had he in this situation, dug in and played defensively. He could have dug in scored a slow 55 and people would have appreciated that.
He could even have scored a slow 100 and it would have been a great knock to play in his final Test in the face of adversity. However slow hundreds are never what McCullum has been about.
McCullum has never been a slow breeze to be enjoyed on a quiet spring afternoon, he has always been a hurricane who changes matches in the blink of an eye.
McCullum in his final Test just remained true to his style, and the hurricane soon hit the Australian bowling attack in Christchurch. The skipper made his intentions clear and soon started to dominate.
He charged the bowlers, he cut, he drove, and the ball started to disappear to all parts of the ground. It was an out and out Brendon McCullum innings, no fear of losing his wicket, no regard for the situation of the match, and just one thought in his head – to dominate the bowling.
McCullum reached his 100 off just 54 balls and it was a perfect way to say goodbye to the game. McCullum finished with 145 off 79 deliveries, but the final numbers didn’t matter by then.
McCullum had put up a trademark Brendon McCullum show, and this was perhaps the greatest of them all. Like I said earlier, McCullum could have been cowed down by the occasion, the match situation, and the pitch. He could have played a slow knock and it would still have been a great ending.
However, to not bow down to the conditions, to continue to look to dominate the bowling, to counter attack like McCullum did in his trademark style, and to not only break the record for the fastest hundred, but to do it in true Brendon McCullum style, and to deliver one of his greatest batting displays, if not the greatest batting display, as he walks into the sunset, is a closing chapter that goes beyond just a great ending.
What Brendon McCullum did in Christchurch, before his home crowd, is just the perfect ending to his career, and only a few get to write that.