As the curtain draws on the career of Brendon McCullum, we as cricket fans can reflect on what has been one of the defining playing careers of the modern era of cricket. McCullum has unfailingly been one of the world’s most exciting and swashbuckling cricketers throughout his distinguished career, all the while maintaining a reputation as one of the sport’s genuine good guys. Not only will McCullum go down as one of the greatest players in this history of cricket in New Zealand, but as one of the greats of the world game.
Perhaps what McCullum will be best remembered for is the explosive nature of his batting across all formats. The numbers speak for themselves: a Test high score of 302, an ODI strike rate of almost 97 and almost 400 career sixes in international matches. Simply put, McCullum has been one of the most devastating batsmen in world cricket for over a decade and, alongside the likes of AB De Villiers, Chris Gayle and Kevin Pietersen, has helped to reinvent what it means to be a limited overs batsman in modern day cricket.
With his mix of inventive hitting and pure bludgeoning power, McCullum is the archetype of the new breed of limited overs batsman and has played an integral part in the evolution of cricket into one of the world’s most exciting sporting spectacles. Much of his legacy will be the enduring popularity of T20 and ODI cricket where feats of batting genius continue to enthral huge crowds and bring the game of cricket to a new generation of fans.
That said, McCullum’s legacy is not limited to his incredible batting prowess and the influence his inimitable style has had on a generation of young cricketers. Alongside starring across all formats with the bat for New Zealand, McCullum has been one of the most inventive and forward-thinking captains in cricket ever since he took on the role for the Kiwis. This was demonstrated in the recent 50 over World Cup, where a mix of extraordinary individual displays of skill from the New Zealanders and the brilliance and innovation of McCullum’s captaincy almost carried the Kiwis to what would have been one of the most astonishing victories in recent cricketing history.
McCullum’s influence as a captain can be seen clearly in the new attacking mindset of the English cricket team, and it would be a foolish observer who would not acknowledge that the series against New Zealand was a real turning point for English cricket. Alastair Cook is not the first man to feel the benefit of McCullum’s genius on his captaincy and, should McCullum choose to go into coaching, it is extremely doubtful that he will be the last.
Even after his brilliance as both a batsman and a captain, there is one factor that may define McCullum’s career beyond the pitch. As a man from a famously competitive and equally famously friendly country, McCullum has more than lived up to the stereotype of the competitive but good natured New Zealander. Ever magnanimous in defeat, ready with a word of praise for a worthy opponent and quick to dismiss any suggestion of rancour, McCullum, perhaps more than any other cricketer in the modern day game, typifies the spirit of cricket and what it means to truly represent one’s country with honour and respect.
When he retires, whether into commentary, coaching or simply well-earned relaxation, Brendon McCullum will go down as one of the greats of the modern game and, perhaps more importantly, a genuinely good bloke.
Image courtesy of Rubensni.