How Brendon McCullum Changed England’s Cricket Culture

How Brendon McCullum Changed England’s Cricket Culture

How Brendon McCullum Changed England's Cricket Culture - In Just Two Weeks - PA

How Brendon McCullum Changed England’s Cricket Culture – In Just Two Weeks – PA

He has just two weeks on his four-year contract, but Brendon McCullum has already changed England’s approach to Test cricket, saying very little and encouraging his players to enjoy themselves.

Sounds simple, but test cricket is such a pressurized environment, unique in professional sport for the time players are together, that successful coaches are those who know how to lighten the mood, while still commanding respect and resisting the temptation to micromanage. .

Two wins out of two, including an extraordinary 299-race chase at Trent Bridge, completed with 22 overtimes to spare, made this the most golden of honeymoon periods.

The players left the field at 11:15pm on Tuesday night and grabbed kebabs from Mega Munch takeaway on their way back to their hotel in Nottingham city centre, having been briefed by the coach in his brief debriefing to seize the moment. They haven’t won many games recently, and when they’ve won the last couple of summers, they haven’t been able to enjoy themselves due to Covid restrictions.

So far, players have described McCullum as an excellent communicator with clarity on what he expects of them. He told them to ignore criticism from experts or supporters and just listen to those within the team.

Prior to the second test, he was particularly interested in speaking one-on-one with Ollie Pope and Jonny Bairstow, acknowledging that they were both fighting for different reasons. Pope was still adjusting to his new third-place role and England’s poor form, while Bairstow needs to feel wanted, something he’s been lacking in recent years.

McCullum reduced the number of backroom staff around the locker room during the game and has not spoken publicly since his arrival in late May. It is customary for the head coach to speak to the media at the end of each test, but McCullum said he wants the players to be the center of attention in the win, he will speak up when they lose.

The conservative approach of the Root years is gone and there is direction from above on how the team should play. It wasn’t long ago that Root was criticizing James Anderson for bowling too short in the Adelaide Test only for Anderson to retort in his Telegraph Sport column that if it was a problem, why didn’t anyone from management tell him during the game.

Anderson and Stuart Broad shot the ball up and even when they were heading to runs the first morning at Trent Bridge, they kept trying to catch wickets instead of dragging their length and “drying the bowl”. England are batting 4.19 more in this series so far, faster than anyone else at any time in the last five years. They’re conceding runs at 3.4 over, more than in all but one series since 2017. It’s expensive, but in part due to their attacking distances.

New England men's test coach Brendon McCullum and James Anderson (left) during a netting session at Lord's Cricket Ground - PA

New England men’s test coach Brendon McCullum and James Anderson (left) during a netting session at Lord’s Cricket Ground – PA

“I don’t think he spoke particularly deeply. His whole mantra is about pleasure and fun. The energy is: how good is test cricket? How good is this terrain? He doesn’t seem to look too far ahead, enjoy the day, what can we go out with today?” Broad said of the new manager – the fifth of his England career, if you count the two stints with Peter Moores.

It’s no surprise that players are chasing every ball to the limit. Jack Leach and Crawley are said to have been caught by teammates before the Test of the Lord watching YouTube videos of McCullum diving in the outfield. They wanted to know how to impress. Leach ended up suffering a concussion doing just that, but went straight to the side for the second test.

Broad credited McCullum with firing Tom Blundell in New Zealand’s second innings. He was caught in the third man with a short ball, Broad taking a more offensive field. “Instead of having the guy 20 yards farther back to stop the four, and if he hits it well and he’s 20 yards away, he can catch him. It’s a small mindset shift, but it’s about getting wickets, not stopping boundaries,” Broad said.

McCullum has been a low-key presence at nets, preferring technical coaches to take charge. He threw his first pitches, a few soft balls to Root, on the eve of the second Test. While some coaches take regular notes during the game, McCullum leaves that to the analysts.

The late afternoon tea talk with England demanding another 160 at 4.2 years was brief and encouraged Bairstow to go ahead. McCullum’s and England’s white-ball hitters speak the same language. “He didn’t say I’d rather lose than draw, but it was that mentality – it was winning at all costs. I want to win, find your way to do it. You have my full support,” Broad said.

The time is right for McCullum. He picked a team that couldn’t have performed any worse. There are talented but disaffected scouts who need a little self-confidence. Two legendary bowlers who’ve seen it all before, but relieved to be back on the team so much more open to new paths than in the past. He has a captain already assured of his legacy after the Ashes and the 2019 World Cup. Root will always fit perfectly into the team without causing any fuss. His views on cricket are in line with his boss Rob Key and Stokes. More importantly, he doesn’t have to deal with suffocating blisters of Covid. No wonder he described it as a job he couldn’t turn down.

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