England turn to Kiwi great McCullum to revive Test fortunes

Published May 13, 2022
Former New Zealand Test player Brendon McCullum. —AFP
Former New Zealand Test player Brendon McCullum. —AFP

LONDON: Former New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum has been appointed head coach of England’s Test team, the country’s cricket board (ECB) said on Thursday.

McCullum replaced Chris Silverwood who left the role in February after England were thrashed 4-0 in the Ashes in Australia, with Paul Collingwood stepping in as a caretaker coach.

McCullum, 40, is currently in charge of Indian Premier League side Kolkata Knight Riders but the ECB said he will be in place to start his role when New Zealand visit for a three-Test series starting at Lord’s on June 2.

“We are delighted to confirm Brendon as England men’s Test head coach. It has been a real privilege to get to know him and understand his views and vision for the game,” ECB managing director Rob Key said in a statement.

“He has a recent history of changing cricket culture and environments for the better, and I believe he is the person to do that for England’s red-ball cricket.

“We were incredibly fortunate to have a seriously strong list of quality candidates for the post, with Brendon demonstrating he was our number one choice.”

Former South Africa and India head coach Gary Kirsten had been linked with the role and Collingwood was also considered.

Leading the revival is a sizeable task for the McCullum, who has never before coached at first-class or Test level, but he is renowned as one of the sport’s most progressive thinkers and dynamic leaders.

As New Zealand skipper he set the side on the path to their current golden era — last year they won the inaugural World Test Championship and they have reached the finals of the past two 50-over World Cups.

McCullum played the last of his 101 Tests at Christchurch in 2016 against Australia, where he hit the fastest ever century in the format (54 balls). He finished his career with 6,453 runs including 12 hundreds and 31 half-centuries.

He will be tasked with working alongside newly-appointed test captain Ben Stokes to get England out of a slump after the team won only one of their last 17 matches, with Key describing the pairing as a “formidable coach and captain partnership”.

“In taking this role on, I am acutely aware of the significant challenges the team faces at present, and I strongly believe in my ability to help the team emerge as a stronger force once we’ve confronted them head-on,” McCullum said.

“Ben Stokes is the perfect character to inspire change around him, and I look forward to working closely with him to build a successful unit around us.”

McCullum was adamant he could bolster the fortunes of an England team still reeling from the Ashes hammering their recent 1-0 defeat in the Caribbean.

“In taking this role on, I am acutely aware of the significant challenges the team faces at present, and I strongly believe in my ability to help the team emerge as a stronger force once we’ve confronted them head-on,” he said.

England are still searching for a white-ball head coach, with internal candidate Coll­in­g­wood strongly tipped among ano­ther strong pool of applicants.

Former England captain Michael Atherton said McCullum’s appointment could turn out to be an inspired choice.

“To give Brendon McCullum the Test job — a week or so ago, I don’t think that was on anybody’s radar, so he has not made the obvious choice here, but I think it’s a very bold choice actually,” Atherton told Sky Sports News.

“He is a nice fit with Stokes, they both approach the game and play the game in a similar manner.

“They will look to get a very clear message, captain and coach, from the same page, to a team that now you expect to be given a bit of freedom and licence to play.”

Published in Dawn, May 13th, 2022

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