Brendon McCullum, born on September 27, 1981, is a wicketkeeper-batsman and the current captain of the New Zealand cricket team. He is one of the most innovative and explosive stroke-makers in world cricket at the moment. Jaideep Vaidya profiles the Kiwi entertainer from Otago.
One of the fastest bowlers in the world, Shaun Tait, is steaming in towards the batsman. New Zealand skipper and wicketkeeper-batsman Brendon McCullum is on-strike. Normally, you would look to use the pace of such a quick bowler and play him front of square. A mere touch would send the ball a distance. McCullum acknowledges the fact, but also realises the danger of finding a man in a field which is spread out. Where to hit? Where to hit? Where’s the gap? Aah, I see it. Bring it on, Shaun. Tait bowls fast with a grunt for the effect; McCullum bends over, gets his bat near the pitch of the ball, scoops it over his head and rolls over. The pace of the ball delivered by the bowler, coupled with McCullum’s angle and elevation is enough for the cherry to go sailing over the keeper’s head and drop on the other side of the rope. Six! Tait is amused and acknowledges the bravado; you would imagine McCullum saying: It’s what I do, mate.
Tait, bowling well above 150kph, was similarly dispatched over the keeper and away for maximum two more times in that same game. So was Dirk Nannes, the left-handed fast bowler, who could not help but break into a wide grin whenever McCullum resorted to his brand of pyrotechnics. This was entertainment at its finest and the opposition could do nothing but sit back and enjoy the show with popcorn. On that February day in 2010, McCullum was in a different zone. You could say he was in his own nirvana. The shots he played that day at Christchurch, in what was a Twenty20 International (T20I) against Australia, was one of the most eye-popping and compelling displays of batsmanship seen in a long time. McCullum made an unbeaten 116 that came off just 56 balls, including 12 fours and eight sixes. Seventy of those runs were scored behind square and mainly targeting the deep fine-leg and deep square-leg boundaries. It was the second hundred in T20Is in the world, falling short of Chris Gayle‘s 117 by just one run; but more importantly it was one of the most swashbuckling innings you would ever see in T20 cricket, if not across all formats.
Some would argue, of course, that how can you think of any other McCullum innings before his 158 not out off 73 balls in the first ever Indian Premier League (IPL) match in 2008? Yes, that was an equally memorable day in Bangalore when the world first got to see what has now become an annual extravaganza. It wasn’t that the IPL needed more glitz, glamour and fireworks. A lavish opening ceremony studded with Bollywood stars had already got the tournament off to a rollicking start. Add to that the fact that superstar Shahrukh Khan’s team Kolkata Knight Riders were playing the first game, against a team owned by liquor magnate and the self-proclaimed King of Good Times Vijay Mallya’s Royal Challengers Bangalore, and you had the perfect amalgam to create a super spectacle. However, McCullum, who had been roped in by the Knight Riders for $700,000 earlier that year decided that he was the star of the show. Move over, Shahrukh, I’m the man! Zaheer Khan, one of India’s best bowlers at the time, was pummelled for three fours and a six in only the second over of the match by McCullum, which provided an insight into what was in store. McCullum’s 158 not out was the highest individual score in the T20 format, until Chris Gayle broke the record in the 2013 IPL with an insane 175 not out against Pune Warriors.
McCullum is one of those batsmen who, when in his groove, you don’t know where to bowl at. If you pitch it full, he’s going to drive it powerfully or scoop it over the ‘keeper’s head. If you pitch it short, he’s going to pull it or hook it over fine-leg for six. McCullum is also an impossible man to set a field to. If you bowl an off-stump line in the hope of making him hit to a packed off-side field, he will somehow position himself and get bat to ball in such a way that it defies orthodox cricketing physics and find the gap, or clear the rope. The coaching manual finds no place on McCullum’s bookshelf; he authors his own. Along with South Africa’s AB de Villiers and India’s Virat Kohli, McCullum is one of the most valuable batsmen in the world in the shorter formats of the game and, over the years, has been labelled as a T20 specialist due to his fantastic record in the format. McCullum is the highest run-scorer in T20Is in the world, which puts him above batsmen such as Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara:
|Brendon McCullum (NZ)||62||61||1,882||123||35.50||135.49||2||11|
|Mahela Jayawardene (SL)||48||48||1,332||100||32.48||134.40||1||8|
|David Warner (Aus)||46||46||1,260||90*||28.63||138.00||0||10|
|Tillakaratne Dilshan (SL)||50||49||1,203||104*||29.34||121.14||1||7|
|Kumar Sangakkara (SL)||45||43||1,178||78||31.83||120.08||0||7|
*upto September 27, 2013
Talking of individual innings in a T20 International, McCullum’s name features twice in the top five highest individual scores. Until Aaron Finch’s 156 against England in September 2013, McCullum held the record for the highest individual scored in a T20 international.
|Aaron Finch (Aus)||156||63||11||14||247.61||Eng|
|Brendon McCullum (NZ)||123||58||11||7||121.06||Ban|
|Richard Levi (SA)||117*||51||5||13||229.41||NZ|
|Chris Gayle (WI)||117||57||7||10||205.26||SA|
|Brendon McCullum (NZ)||116*||56||12||8||107.14||Aus|
*upto September 27, 2013
Oh, and before one forgets, McCullum is also a wicketkeeper and a very good one at that. He keeps wickets for New Zealand in the shorter formats of the game, but has given up the trade in Tests due to the toll it took on his back over the years. Even in wicket-keeping, McCullum has managed to hold a few records for himself: In December 2002, a few months into his international career, McCullum took four catches and effected a stumping against India at Napier, equalling a national record set by his predecessor Adam Parore. McCullum has since recorded five dismissals in an innings three times. In the 2007 World Cup in the Caribbean, McCullum took four catches in a match, against the hosts West Indies, to overtake Parore’s New Zealand record of 136 dismissals in ODIs by a wicketkeeper. In December 2009, McCullum broke the record for most dismissals in a Test by being involved in nine against Pakistan at Napier.
McCullum, hailing from Dunedin, Otago, made his way through to the New Zealand national side after playing for his state team Otago. He made his One-Day International (ODI) debut in January 2002 against Australia at the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG), where he could score only five runs with the bat. After Parore’s retirement later that year, McCullum took over the wicketkeeping gloves and impressed straight way, taking four catches and effecting a stumping against India at Napier. McCullum made his Test debut only in 2004, and scored 57 against South Africa at Hamilton. His maiden Test century was to come the following year, when he scored 143 against Bangladesh at Dhaka.
McCullum has since been a protagonist in a number of memorable matches for New Zealand. In 2005, he smashed a half-century in just 25 balls to help the Kiwis chase down a then world-record 332 against Australia to avoid a whitewash in the Chappell-Hadlee Trophy. A couple of years later, he was involved in a world-record partnership of 165 with Craig McMillan for the sixth wicket, which helped New Zealand accomplish the then-second highest run chase in ODIs of 347. The opponents were again the Aussies and McCullum scored 86 off 91 balls. Coupled with McMillan’s 117 off 96 balls, the Black Caps negated Matthew Hayden’s magnificent 181 and inflicted a clean sweep of the Chappell-Hadlee series this time.
In the 2007 World Cup, McCullum hit a fifty off just 20 balls against Canada — the fastest half-century in a World Cup. As mentioned earlier, in the same tournament, he also overtook Parore’s ODI tally as a ‘keeper. McCullum’s consistent performance for New Zealand earned him captaincy of the side for the first time in a T20I against England in 2008, which preceded his IPL heroics. In July that year, he would score his first ever ODI century, in his 134th match, which was surprisingly a very delayed occasion. He smashed Ireland for 166 off 135 deliveries and his 266-run stand with Hamish Marshall is a record for the Black Caps. In 2009, McCullum would captain the Kiwis for the first time on ODIs, and celebrated the occasion with a 68-ball 71 at Christchurch against India. The same year, he would record his first ODI century against a top-rung team, scoring 131 against Pakistan at Abu Dhabi. Later that year, he would break another national record for most dismissals in a Test. By 2012, McCullum was made the captain of New Zealand across all formats.
As things stand, McCullum the batsman has scored more close to 4,500 runs in Tests and almost 5,000 in ODIs, apart from his record in T20Is. Here is his overall record:
*upto September 27, 2013