Away from the focus of the upcoming T20 world cup and PSL, there is a series going on in New Zealand which will mark the end of perhaps the best New Zealand player to have graced the field. I absolutely understand that many of you will be raising eyebrows and saying that Martin Crowe is a serious contender to the fact but the legacy that McCullum is leaving behind is immeasurable in numbers. He has changed a side which was always considered as underdogs and if performed than people said they punched above their weight to a side which was considered as serious contenders.
(Image Source: India.com)
The Australia series is his last series, he made it clear that he would not be available for the ICC T20 world cup hosted by India. McCullum made his debut against Australia in 2002 at the Sydney Cricket Ground. At the start he was a wicketkeeper who can bat. He made his test debut against South Africa in 2004 and batted at the number 7 position for a length of time before making his way up the batting order. He entertained the crowd but consistency was missing.
Then came the opening night of the IPL and he launched it with an innings of 156 laced with boundaries that announced his arrival in the big league and made people sit and watch. He became the second player after Chris Gayle to hit a T20 International Hundred scooping 150 Km/hr thunderbolts from Tait and Nannes over fine leg. From time to time he showed glimpses of how devastating he can be. But there was one thing missing and that was that New Zealand as a team were still underdogs and were still considered a bunch of good players who can beat any team on their day but never the aura of a great team.
The Captain and the Lagacy
The best part of the career of Brendon Mccullum started when he literally imploded the New Zealand cricket board to get the leadership role. There was a power point presentation, the computers were involved to explain a game that deals with a bat and a ball. There were disgruntled players, he demanded the job and he wanted to take them in a different direction. The direction only he knew and the results which were ideas at that point. He started with a big jolt when New Zealand folded for 45 against South Africa in the new year test of 2013. There were raised eyebrows but McCullum along with Coach Hesson were determined and they knew it will take time to change. He made the team play in a manner which was so like his batting, a whiff of fresh air. They started to play as if they want to win rather than just compete as the past New Zealand teams did.
He played test cricket in the manner of ODIs and there were test like fields in ODIs. He took maximum out of his players and turned them into match winners. Bowlers like Tim Southee and Trent Boult turned into genuine match winners under his captaincy. Then there were players like Martin Guptill, Corey Anderson, Tom Latham which blossomed under his captaincy. He went for impact players like Matt Henry and Corey Anderson who on their day can fail and make a captain look like a joker but on their day they would win a game for you. He made peace with Ross Taylor and gave him the respect that a senior player deserves and gave him the crucial number 4 spot in the batting line up to tell him he is important. He alongside himself developed a leader like Kane Williamson so that the team is in safe hands when he hang up his boots.
He demanded attention during the 2015 world cup from a rugby loving nation. He asked the people to back them and assure them they will enjoy their experience. Such was the manner of their play that the New Zealand team changed the way a nation looked at cricket. People started thronging the stadiums, there were packed houses, thousands of people appealed with the 11 person on the field and the joy for which the game stands came back to people.
The stats might say that he was not in the league of a Lara or a Tendulkar but what he achieved is immeasurable. He made a competing team into a team that went for win at all costs.
Brendon Sir, when you hang up the boots after the second test ends against Australia you can walk into sunlight with a smile and chin up. You left game richer than it was when you arrived.
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