Home > Features >

Ajit Agarkar feels New Zealand captaincy has changed Brendon McCullum into a better player

Brendon McCullum went on to score his second hundred of the series — fourth against India © Getty Images
Brendon McCullum went on to score his second hundred of the series — fourth against India © Getty Images

By Ajit Agarkar

When play began on Sunday morning, New Zealand were 24 for the one wicket, still 222 runs away from making India bat again. By lunch, they were four down for 87. A few minutes into the second session, they were in deep trouble with Corey Anderson gone for just two. That’s when Bradley-John Watling joined skipper Brendon McCullum in the middle. Thanks to an inspired first spell (8-3-21-2) from Zaheer Khan, India were just five wickets away from a famous and — more importantly — jinx-breaking and series-levelling victory. But what panned out over the next four hours was defence and defiance of the highest quality. If nothing, the hosts took the second Test into the fourth day. And they also gave themselves a faint hope of saving the contest.

McCullum went on to score his second hundred of the series — fourth against India — while wicketkeeper Watling scored a half century full of character as New Zealand ended the day at 252for the loss of five wickets. Their undefeated sixth-wicket partnership of 158 consumed a whopping 61.4 overs. In other words, they scored at a little over 2.5 runs an over. McCullum enjoyed two lives — Virat Kohli, otherwise a splendid fielder, was way too casual at mid-on and Ishant Sharma spilled a return catch. McCullum was on nine and 36, respectively. He made full use of those opportunities.

Let’s get this straight: India are still way ahead in the Test and just a couple of wickets away from wrapping up the New Zealand innings. But I hope they don’t end up conceding too many runs. Anything more than a 150-run target and we could be in for a fascinating fourth-innings chase. India must look to avoid it.

The day belonged largely to McCullum. Having played against and with him (at Kolkata Knight Riders), I know how dangerous a player he is. But this is a transformed McCullum we are watching. Sample this: he took as many as 197 balls to get to his hundred. It was, by far, the slowest of his nine Test tons. Hard to fathom, right? But that’s what world-class players do. They play according to the situation. Clearly, the added responsibility of captaining the side seems to have had a positive effect on his approach to the game.

Watling’s half century was also an exhibition of patience. He finished the day with 52 off 208, a strike-rate of exactly 25! McCullum also completed 1,000 Test runs against India, thereby becoming the first New Zealander to do so. In fact, over 20 per cent of his 5,000-odd runs have come against India. Also, he is playing his 84th straight Test match and has kept wickets in a vast majority of those contests.

Credit must also go to Zaheer. I think he bowled very well in the morning. He was well-supported by Sharma and Mohammed Shami. Did MS Dhoni miss a trick or two by being too defensive at times? At one point in McCullum’s innings, there was no fielder at slip. Also, I feel Dhoni could have got a part-timer like Virat Kohli or even Rohit Sharma on for a few overs because, sometimes, batsmen tend to take liberties and end up making a mistake. Ravindra Jadeja was the only slow bowler India used on Sunday and he looked too predictable.

(Ajit Agarkar represented India in over 200 matches and took 349 wickets. The above column first appeared in DNA from where its reproduced with permission)

West Indies tour of India, 2014

Oct 20, 2014 (14:30 IST)   at Kolkata

Pakistan vs Australia in UAE, 2014

Oct 22, 2014 (11:30 IST)   at Dubai

West Indies tour of India, 2014

Oct 22, 2014 (19:00 IST)   at Cuttack

South Africa tour of New Zealand, 2014

Oct 24, 2014 (03:00 IST)   at Mount Maunganui

Zimbabwe tour of Bangladesh, 2014

Oct 25, 2014 (09:00 IST)   at Dhaka

More

South Africa tour of New Zealand, 2014

Oct 21, 2014  at Mount Maunganui

South Africa won by 6 wkts

West Indies tour of India, 2014

Oct 17, 2014  at Dharamsala

India won by 59 runs

West Indies tour of India, 2014

Oct 14, 2014  at Visakhapatnam

Match cancelled

Pakistan vs Australia in UAE, 2014

Oct 12, 2014  at Abu Dhabi

Australia won by 1 run

West Indies tour of India, 2014

Oct 11, 2014  at Delhi

India won by 48 runs

Photos

New Zealand vs South Africa, 1st ODI

Videos

Australia perpare for 1st Test against Pakistan

Pakistan’s chances in ICC World Cup 2015 bleak: Mohammad Zahid

Pakistan vs Australia 1st Test in Dubai Preview: Motivated Pakistan look to hurt rusty Australia

MS Dhoni rested, Virat Kohli as captain, and other points of interest from squad for first 3 India vs Sri Lanka ODIs

India vs Sri Lanka 2014: MS Dhoni gets much-needed break ahead of Australia tour

A Pakistan all-time XI: A galaxy of captains

Australia Australia tour of UAE 2014 Australia vs Pakistan Australia vs Pakistan 2014 India India vs West Indies India vs West Indies 2014 New Zealand Pakistan Salaam Cricket South Africa West Indies West Indies tour of India 2014 West Indies vs India West Indies vs India 2014

South Africa vs New Zealand 2014: Kane Williamson out with wrist injury

Live Cricket Score: Pakistan vs Australia, 1st Test, Day 1 at Dubai

Live Streaming: Pakistan vs Australia, 1st Test, Day 1 at Dubai

Live Scorecard: Pakistan vs Australia, 1st Test, Day 1 at Dubai

WICB seek meeting with BCCI to minimise damage

Australia’s best opportunity to bury ghosts of playing on spinning track

Duleep Trophy Semi-Final, Central Zone vs North Zone: Players to watch out for

Pakistan’s chances in ICC World Cup 2015 bleak: Mohammad Zahid

Quinton de Kock equals wicketkeeping record with six catches in South Africa vs New Zealand 1st ODI

MS Dhoni rested, Virat Kohli as captain, and other points of interest from squad for first 3 India vs Sri Lanka ODIs

Fan of the Day

Suraj Gowda

Suraj Gowda

642 Posts | 9 Fans

Virat Kohli's Family Meets Anushka Sharma

Pitbull to host 2014 American Music Awards

Action Jackson first look: Ajay Devgn to join the 8-pack bandwagon?

Allocate spectrum to telcos within 90 days after payment: Panel

Box Cricket League 2014: All you need to know about the sports reality show

Drink ginger tea to relieve a migraine naturally

Bigg Boss 8 Highlights: Sonali Raut’s double standards; Puneet Issar’s aggressive avatar

Microsoft to rebrand Nokia to Microsoft Lumia: Report

How BMI and BMR play a role in weight loss

Also on cricketcountry.com

Play Fantasy Cricket & Win

Cash Daily! Click here