The aggressive right-hander was always the man who was considered to be the heir apparent when Daniel Vettori was the captain, but Taylor leapfrogged to take the role.(Full Coverage| Venues | Fixtures)
The semi-final clash between New Zealand and South Africa is as much about an opportunity for the co-hosts to create history, as it is for their captain Brendon McCullum to show his mettle.
McCullum is the enforcer, an all-rounder in truest sense who is aggressive in his approach. McCullum commands respect in the way he rallies his forces on the ground. He has had a tough task in building a side brick-by-brick from the ruins of a South Africa tour a couple of years ago, as he was thrust in the role by the sudden resignation of Ross Taylor.
The aggressive right-hander was always the man who was considered to be the heir apparent when Daniel Vettori was the captain, but Taylor leapfrogged to take the role. However, circumstances and New Zealand’s poor performances ensured that McCullum was forced into the role, almost by default. But what he has done since then has been remarkable. Along with coach Mike Hesson, he has carefully sculpted the New Zealand squad. They have stuck to a combination and persisted with the players who are now delivering the results.
McCullum’s biggest success has been the work put in by the pace attack. Tim Southee was the man chosen to lead the attack in the new era despite the presence of senior paceman like Kyle Mills. Trent Boult, till recently considered a Test match specialist, was thrown the challenge of bowling in ODI cricket and even that paid rich dividends. Then the emergence of a genuine paceman in Adam Milne added the necessary X-factor to the bowling attack. Daniel Vettori was recalled to add value to the side with his experience.
Overall, it has been the skipper’s positive approach which has rubbed off on the rest of the side. McCullum has been willing to take risks, both while batting or bowling. It is this daredevil attitude that has helped the Kiwis play without fear. McCullum has himself shown the way with his breathtaking assault on Australia and England. He may not have set the tournament on fire with plenty of runs, but his batting has made a statement. This has ensured that the rest of the line-up has been able to build on the foundation laid by the opener. New Zealand’s unbeaten run in the tournament is a victory for McCullum. He has ensured that the Black Caps are no longer considered just there to make up the numbers. McCullum’s biggest strength is the way he has managed the senior players in the line-up. Taylor and Vettori, two former captains, have slipped back into the ranks very well thanks mainly to the captain they are playing under.
If winning a Test match in the oppressive United Arab Emirates (UAE) conditions against Pakistan was an achievement, a bigger moment was winning the ODI series against the same opponent in the desert. That sort of set the ball rolling for the McCullum era to be counted amongst the best ever in the history of New Zealand’s cricket history. If New Zealand do win on Tuesday, McCullum would have taken the final step towards being counted as one of the finest New Zealand leaders ever.
If Stephen Fleming was the man who provided stability to New Zealand cricket, Bazz could well be the man who makes them the best in the world.