Saturday, February 6, 2016

Brendon McCullum has, at various times in his career, been a very good batsman.

Today, at Westpac Stadium in Wellington, was not one of those occasions. Here he was opening against Australia, taking his usual gung-ho approach to batting. This was twenty-eight runs of crashing the hoardings, banging the braying in the stands and wildly walloping the whipping boys usually referred to as bowlers.

Sounds great, so far. It gets even better. He achieved this in no more than twelve deliveries. Wow.

Wow, that is, until you consider the mode of his egression from proceedings. The ball previously, he had dispatched this little round piece of leather into the delirium of the masses with a remarkably cultured six straight over the bowlers head.

Stupendous stuff.

Then, the very next delivery, he loses his head and charges down the pitch aimlessly, taking a feral swing, missing completely, and having the top of his off-stump rattled.

Sounds strangely similar.

Not only did he underachieve - again - it was a selfish act from the New Zealand Captain who opened his side up to the potential risk of a middle order collapse. At the other end, Martin Guptill had scored five from twelve deliveries. Sure, while McCullum was hurtling into the twenties, he could take a back seat. But he was struggling with his timing and the last thing he needed was his Captain heaping even greater amounts of unneeded pressure on him to restart their inning.
Then, of course, the incoming batsman, Kane Williamson, is forced to retreat into his shell, having to take extra responsibility to add substance to their side's total.

Sure, in the end, New Zealand made 281 for 9. But it could have been and should have been well into the three hundred's. But for McCullum.
Sadly, this appears to be McCullum's way. Approach a onedayer in the manner of a Twenty20 encounter. Ironic, really, as his impending international retirement comes just before The Twenty20 World Cup in March. The hit and giggle of that form of the game would suit his approach perfectly.

Yet, it needn't be. If only he would temper his style slightly, play each ball on its merits, his contribution to this team, and indeed all the sides he has played in down the years, could have been significantly more prolific.

Both Williamson and Guptill score at strike rates in the mid eighties. Williamson has made seven centuries and twenty-five fifties in ninety-one games at an average of 47.21. Guptill has scored ten centuries and twenty-nine fifties at an average of 43.21 in one hundred and twenty-seven games for his Country.

And McCullum? Five centuries and thirty-two fifties at an average of 30.34 in two hundred and fifty-eight matches. His strike rate is at 95.77. Only slightly higher than his two teammates. Both his opening partner and number three contribute more runs to this team each time they go out to bat, score more Centuries and fifties. And at a strike rate almost as high as McCullum's.

So please do spare us all the drivel that he is getting his side off to a fast start. He regularly loses his wicket prematurely too often for this to be the case. The figures simply do not back up his supposed fantastical contribution that his rabid supporters claim.

This New Zealand Captain is a good player, but nowhere near as good as the almost cult like worshipping of his over-hyped abilities suggest.

Indeed, he has, and has had, so much more to offer New Zealand Cricket. Soon, though, he'll be off to England to play Twenty20 for Middlesex this coming May.
In the end, his batting is no darling buds of May; more the dubious duds of daylight between willow and leather.

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