White-ball role would have been too ‘cushy’ for Kiwi coach who is looking for a challenge by reinvigorating English Test cricket
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Brendon McCullum has admitted the challenge of trying to reinvigorate the England Test team was too big to turn down.
And he was more than happy to take the plunge and turn his life upside down in order to get his teeth into the ‘meaty’ role alongside skipper Ben Stokes. McCullum told his former co-host Izzy Dagg on his SENZ radio show ‘Breakfast with Baz and Izzy’ that he is setting out to make his England side an entertaining one worth coming to watch.
And even though he had carved out a successful white ball coaching and media career since retiring from playing, this was a risk he had to take.
“In life I think if you’re going to change what you’re doing then make sure it is worth the risk of doing so,” said McCullum. “And this is a big enough challenge to risk doing so, that is for sure.
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“There is a little bit of apprehension but also a tremendous amount of excitement at how big the challenge is. For me Test cricket is on a downward trend with regard to popularity and where it sits, and while I’ve been lucky enough to have a career in franchise and white ball cricket, Test cricket is my real love.
“I think if anyone is going to be able to reinvigorate Test cricket and make it popular again and attract it to the next generation it is going to be England. So if you can be at the forefront of that by playing an attractive brand of cricket, play with a smile on your face and try to entertain, then Test cricket has got a chance.
“I thought ‘crikey I’ve got to give this a crack if they think I’m the right person.’ It all happened quickly but I’m incredibly humbled and delighted to be in the chair. If you are prepared to change your life for something it has got to be something a bit grunty, a bit meaty and that is what the challenge of trying to bring a team that is rock bottom out of that situation is.”
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That is why joining forces with his good friend Eoin Morgan in charge of the white ball teams didn’t really interest the 40-year-old from South Dunedin. The challenge is simply not the same as it is with a red ball side languishing at the bottom of the World Test Championship table.
“The white ball job didn’t interest me as such because they are flying,” he added. “They are one of the best teams in the world, they are the world champions after the 2019 World Cup. They’ve got Eoin Morgan in there who is a very good friend of mine who has built a structure and a system that will continue well after he has finished playing, so I wasn’t interested in a cushy gig.
“I’m looking to try to build something long term, sustainable and successful, that is where the challenge lay, plus I love Test cricket.”
Former England captain Sir Andrew Strauss was a part of the panel who interviewed McCullum for the job and he admitted they were blown away by what the New Zealander had to offer.
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“I’m delighted and excited,” said Strauss. “He blew us away with his clarity of thinking, and his simple approach. He’s a very positive guy with a very clear mindset and he will embed that in that Test team at a time when confidence is a bit low and people need that clarity and direction. He’s an impressive guy.
“He always took the positive option as a player, he wasn’t scared of failing, he wasn’t scared of making mistakes and that is what this Test team needs at the moment. They need someone to back them, to give them confidence and inspire them and they need to break the shackles and realise how good they are.”