It takes a combined effort from 11 individuals to have a successful day at the cricketing office. Of course, it is not always an equal contribution from all of them. On a given day, some may produce the performance of a lifetime while others might just want to crawl back into the dugout. As the sun dawns in Christchurch on the 20th morning, the country along with the rest of the cricketing world will prepare to see a champion in action for one last time. Over the next 5 days, New Zealand will be hoping that their most valuable impact player, Brendon McCullum, gets the perfect swansong.
The journey started on the 17th of August 2002 against the Kiwi’s Trans-Tasman rivals. A young, brash wicket keeper batsman was representing his country on the international cricket scene for the very first time. Almost 14 years down the line, it is nothing short of inspirational to see how that young bloke contributed significantly in sharing his country’s affinity for rugby with cricket. A paradigm shift in people’s interests does not come about easily, especially in the case of sports. Riding on his aggressive batting, smart glove work and most importantly, his intuitive leadership, he brought about that change almost singlehandedly.
Baz did most of his talking with the bat. He got his first test hundred against Bangladesh, a brilliant 143. Since then, he has gone on to make 10 more centuries including 4 scores of 200+ which is a national record. Though rued for his inconsistency, McCullum is the only player to have played 100 consecutive tests since his debut and has smacked 100 sixes in the process, a shared world record. It is a fact that his swashbuckling style has got him into trouble a lot but every time we thought he was down, he came back in a way only Baz could. A memorable, match saving 302 at Wellington against India is undoubtedly his best effort in whites.
McCullum was a bigger threat in the shorter formats and it is safe to say it was his intent at the top which set the tune for the Kiwis. He quickly evolved into a destructive opener who could take the fight to any opponent and punch them out of the game in a very short time. He set the IPL on fire with a breathtaking unbeaten 158 against RCB in the very first match of the inaugural edition. Since then, he has jumped from team to team but finally found a second home in CSK where he combined with Dwayne Smith to form a wonderful opening partnership. As of today, he is the leading run scorer in T20’s. One Day cricket brought about no changes in his style as he continued to provide the required impetus at the top. His juggernaut up front played a pivotal role in New Zealand’s successful 2015 World Cup campaign where they reached the finals.
As a leader too, Baz was a winner. He has 11 test wins as the captain of the Black Caps which is second only to Stephen Fleming. More than the numbers, it was the attitude which he instilled into his team that caught the eye of many. He pushed the Kiwi’s to play an attractive and effective brand of cricket which lured fans from all over the world. Be it having 5 people in the slip cordon in a T20 match or setting about to chase an improbable target, he made sure that his team never gave up and always improved. As he takes the field for his final international match, Baz will expect one more fight from his boys to overcome their Big Brother and level the series. Irrespective of how that goes down, irrespective of how many sixes he hits, irrespective of how much he scores, the entire cricketing fraternity is going to come together and say ‘Thank You’ to one of their all time favorites.