Home > Features >

Nathan McCullum’s effectiveness in limited-overs cricket is almost unheralded

Nathan McCullum's bowling average in ODIs is an impressive 4.85 © Getty Images
Nathan McCullum’s bowling average in ODIs is an impressive 4.85 © Getty Images

Nathan McCullum has been a curious presence in the New Zealand side despite not having very good numbers. Abhishek Mukherjee tries to explain why the older brother of Brendon McCullum is an essential component of his side, especially in the shorter formats.

The extended run given to the Otago wicket-keeper Stuart McCullum’s younger son can be baffling: yet to play a single Test, Nathan McCullum has played 65 One-Day Internationals (ODIs), averaging 20.63 with the bat and a terrible 47.10 with the ball. His 46 wickets from those matches also do not really speak very highly of the man.

Daniel Vettori’s long hiatus from the sport has, obviously, played a major role in Nathan’s long run, but that has not been all. Let us start with the bowling first: McCullum’s average is unusually poor — the sixth-worst in history among those with over 40 ODIs (second-worst if minnows and batsmen are excluded).

On the other hand, however, McCullum’s economy-rate reads a more than impressive 4.85. In fact, in the last three years, Kyle Mills has been the only New Zealand bowler with over 30 ODI wickets who has had a better economy rate. Mills, of course, has definitely been the best New Zealand seamer in the limited-over formats of the sport, and has better numbers than most think he does.

Let us try to find out exactly how good Mills and McCullum have been. With a phenomenal average of 26.75 and an economy-rate of 4.73, Mills has been up there with the very best in the history of ODIs (he had been the best bowler in the ICC rankings, and was in the top five for a substantial span of time).

McCullum concedes 4.85 runs an over. Between them, Mills and McCullum concede approximately 96 runs in 20 overs every match; while McCullum picks up close to a wicket a match, Mills has close to two on an average. This means that the almost invisible force they exert upon the opposition results in a potentially match-winning 20-0-96-3.

Between them, the two unsung heroes provide the perfect foil to Mitchell McClenaghan, Tim Southee, and the likes, allowing them to have a full blast at the opposition: they do not have to bother about conceding runs.

What about batting, then? McCullum’s 949 runs have come at a sub-21 average, but wait — he has an excellent strike-rate of 89.4. A couple of months back he had pulled off a stunning victory against Sri Lanka at Hambantota when New Zealand chased down an unbelievable total that had come down to 20 off the last over: McCullum had remained unbeaten on a nine-ball 32.

That, however, was not a one-off: a strike-rate of 89.4 is quite impressive. How impressive are these numbers? If we put restrictions, of, say, 60 matches, 750 runs, and 40 wickets, then only 10 men have a strike-rate of over 90 and an economy-rate below five. McCullum needs a marginal increase in his strike-rate to make it to the league. If we reduce the numbers to the over, McCullum scores at 5.36 runs an over and concedes 4.85.

In other words, McCullum is your quintessential ODI cricketer: the classical parameters of batting and bowling averages mean nothing to him. He is a cricketer of the new breed that is judged on an entirely different pair of parameters — batting strike-rate and bowling economy-rate, and on that count, he scores exceptionally.

What about T20Is, then? Let us consider the same parameters again: McCullum has a batting strike-rate of 105.17 and an economy rate of 6.85. Since Twenty20 is his genre, he strangles batsmen into submission, forcing them to succumb to his nagging accuracy: from 51 T20Is he has picked up 48 wickets at 20.72, which places him eighth on the all-time list. Of these eight men, Shahid Afridi and McCullum are the only ones to have scored over 250 runs.

Nathan McCullum, thus, may not be the best cricketer by the most classical of definitions, but he is effective, and the exact man a captain looks for in a limited-overs match: a man the opposition would not feel threatened by, but can be more destructive than it meets the eye and goes about his job silently.

(Abhishek Mukherjee is Deputy Editor and cricket historian at cricketcountry.com. He can be followed on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/ovshake42)

West Indies in South Africa, 2014-15

Dec 17, 2014 (14:00 IST)   at Centurion

India tour of Australia, 2014-15

Dec 17, 2014 (05:29 IST)   at Woolloongabba, Brisbane

Pakistan vs New Zealand in UAE, 2014

Dec 19, 2014 (16:30 IST)   at Abu Dhabi

West Indies in South Africa, 2014-15

Dec 26, 2014 (14:00 IST)   at Port Elizabeth

Sri Lanka tour of New Zealand, 2014-15

Dec 26, 2014 (03:30 IST)   at Christchurch

More

Pakistan vs New Zealand in UAE, 2014

Dec 17, 2014  at Abu Dhabi

New Zealand won by 7 runs

England tour of Sri Lanka, 2014

Dec 16, 2014  at Colombo

Sri Lanka won by 87 runs

Pakistan vs New Zealand in UAE, 2014

Dec 14, 2014  at Sharjah

Pakistan won by 147 runs

England tour of Sri Lanka, 2014

Dec 13, 2014  at Pallekele

Sri Lanka won by 90 runs

Pakistan vs New Zealand in UAE, 2014

Dec 12, 2014  at Sharjah

New Zealand won by 4 wkts

Photos

India vs Australia, 2nd Test at Brisbane

Videos

Steven Smith appointed Australia captain

India vs Australia 2014-15, 2nd Test at Brisbane, Day 2: India lose Rahane, Rohit early

Cheteshwar Pujara’s dismissal: How can cricket eliminate the howler?

India vs Australia 2nd Test at Brisbane: Maiden wickets, an elusive ton, and other highlights from Day 1

Murali Vijay, Ajinkya Rahane guide India to 311/4 against Australia on Day 1 of 1st Test at Brisbane

Australia India Interviews Ishant Sharma Moments in history Ravichandran Ashwin RP Singh South Africa

India vs Australia, 2nd Test at Brisbane, Day 2: Rohit Sharma dismissed by Shane Watson

India vs Australia, 2nd Test at Brisbane, Day 2: Brad Haddin takes five catches

India vs Australia, 2nd Test at Brisbane, Day 2: Ajinkya Rahane out for 81

Alastair Cook should be dropped as ODI skipper, believe Darren Gough and Michael Vaughan

India vs Australia 2014-15, 2nd Test at Brisbane: Shane Warne slams Mitchell Starc for nonchalant approach

Murali Vijay continues to make impressive progress against Australia

Cheteshwar Pujara’s dismissal: How can cricket eliminate the howler?

India vs Australia 2nd Test at Brisbane: Maiden wickets, an elusive ton, and other highlights from Day 1

Chamundeswaranath caught Balasubramaniam bowled Ananthapadmanabhan

Sri Lanka vs England, 7th ODI at Colombo: Tillakaratne Dilshan’s all-round performance and other highlights

Fan of the Day

Suraj Gowda

Suraj Gowda

653 Posts | 10 Fans

India vs Australia: Murali Vijay's 144, Video highlights

प्रसिद्ध कथक नृत्यांगना सितारा देवी नहीं रही

More broadband connections to boost GDP growth in Asia Pacific: GSMA

India is becoming our largest overseas market, Xiaomi CEO Lei Jun says

Bigg Boss 8: Ali Quli Mirza, Renee Dhyani, Upen Patel, Praneet Bhatt, Sonali Raut – who should be evicted this week?

Revealed: The reason why Kishore Kumar’s biopic starring Ranbir Kapoor won’t feature Katrina Kaif!

अभिनेत्री प्रियंका चोपड़ा ने स्वच्छ भारत अभियान में हिस्सा लिया

Also on cricketcountry.com

Play Fantasy Cricket & Win

Cash Daily! Click here