Written by Sriram Veera | | Melbourne | | March 30, 2015 9:31:48 am
A drunken, slurring voice crackled through the airwaves. “What about our captain? What was that shot about?” In the 90 minutes of a radio show streaming from Auckland, as the semi-final descended into familiar despair against Australia, his was the only voice of dissent against Brendon McCullum. And even he was hushed up by the two hosts, who told him to go and get under shower.
Perhaps there were more angry callers later but they would have been a rarity in all likelihood. Right now, McCullum is like Brian Lara in Trinidad. Not a word can be whispered against him. And there is no need to of course, for even though his dismissal in the first over was the chief reason why New Zealand lost, it wasn’t his shot that his countrymen are going to blame.
At least not in the immediate now for he is celebrated as the man who has made cricket loveable and something to be proud of.
McCullum was asked the question in the post-match press interaction. Does he regret anything, will there be a change in the aggressive style? “No, no, you don’t change your style of play. For us to develop into the team that we want to be, we have to play like that.”
It’s an interesting philosophy. McCullum explained why they have to play like that. “I think there’s an element of fearlessness about how we play, which has had an effect on other teams, as well, and I think if you ask most of the teams in this tournament what they think of how we’ve played the game, they would be very respectful of how we’ve gone about it.
Time not to change
“It’s what gives us our greatest pleasure, as well, and sometimes we’re going to come undone, but for us to compete against the big teams on regular occasions and for us to be able to develop into the team we want to be, we need to keep playing this brand of cricket, and we’ll get better at doing it the more we become accustomed to it, and I guess a stronger depth of players we develop in the same sort of mould of cricket as we have. So yeah, we’re not going to change.”
The coach Mike Hesson asked McCullum if he was going to have a crack today? And McCullum’s reply? “Too right. We all went in the same mind-set that we have played with throughout this tournament. We were just outdone by a better team on the day. Yeah, that’s just sport.”
It’s been an emotional roller coaster of a ride in New Zealand. Cricket is once again popular and played by the kids. Across the country, that was the single everlasting image: kids playing cricket. It wouldn’t have been possible without this fearless brand of play.
In a country where cricket isn’t the no 1 sport, and whose cricketers were lambasted after a dismal 45 all out against South Africa, where the captaincy tussle between McCullum and Ross Taylor brought more bad name, this turnaround and capturing of public imagination would not have been possible if it were not for this style.
McCullum was confident that his team, this team, would get there to the desired place soon.
“ I do think that we were starting to get there. It took a lot of hard work along the way, and I don’t think we’re the finished product just yet, but we’re certainly heading in the right direction. We’ve got a team full of guys who are selfless, about trying to play for New Zealand. They know that during the time that they’ve got, they want to make an impact, and they’re prepared to buy into team plans and try and play an aggressive style of cricket. We know that that’s our greatest opportunity.
“Over the last probably 12 to 18 months it’s been a process of filtering that and starting to really crunch down our plans and the personnel that we wanted within the group, and I think we’re starting to get there. I think we’ve made some significant changes, and we’re certainly richer for the experience in terms of our standing in world cricket. We need to keep getting better.
“We’re not satisfied where we sit at the moment, but the way we’re going is certainly the way to go about it.”