25 Feb 2016

New era for Black Caps after McCullum

8:53 am on 25 February 2016

Sports Call - Golf, racing and darts are what retiring Black Caps captain Brendon McCullum intends concentrating on in the immediate future, with his farewell tour finally having come to an end.

His last gig featured a stand-out solo performance but the support acts were found wanting.

The outgoing New Zealand skipper's international career, which began back in 2002, came to an end at Hagley Oval yesterday without the home Test win over Australia he so craved.

More on Brendon McCullum's legacy

While that will still be missing from his resume, he was able to show his adopted home town just why he's been a force on the international scene.

Bludgeoning the fastest Test century in the history of the game on day one and pulling New Zealand out of the mire, the innings could be described as McCullum personified.

Struggling at 30 for three when he strode out to a wicket that, in his own words, was "doing a bit", McCullum had already decided attack was the best form of defence.

That was his motto throughout his career. Criticised for not curbing that aggressive approach when required, McCullum could accept the naysayers but wouldn't bow to them. It wasn't in his DNA.

Brendon McCullum batting during his last innings before retirement on Day 3 of the 2nd test match. New Zealand Black Caps v Australia. Hagley Oval in Christchurch, New Zealand. Monday 22 February 2016.

McCullum in action during his last innings before retirement on Monday in Christchurch. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

But will McCullum go down as a great of the game? Will he be mentioned among names like Brian Lara, Sir Viv Richards, Sachin Tendulkar, Shane Warne, Sir Richard Hadlee and Martin Crowe?

No, McCullum is not in that echelon. His legacy to the game is the change he brought about in the spirit of New Zealand's play.

Former England captain Mike Atherton, writing in the Times, labelled McCullum one of cricket's "most significant modern captains".

"Captains who change something fundamental about their country's cricket are rare breeds," he said.

He went on to credit McCullum for re-invigorating the 50 over format.

He might not go down as a great of the game but he has certainly provided great moments for New Zealand cricket, individually and collectively.

MCullum is the only New Zealander to score a triple Test century and, even in his final Test match, he was still rewriting the history books: surpassing Sir Viv Richards and Pakistan's Misbah-ul-Haq to take the record for the fastest century in Test cricket.

He would quite happily give that up for a Test win over Australia.

Going into the series, New Zealand fancied their chances. Beaten two-nil in Australia prior to Christmas, the team at least showed at times they were competitive - and they can justifiably feel hard done by in not gaining victory in the pink ball Test in Adelaide.

Where did it go wrong against Australia?

A green seamer at the Basin Reserve welcomed the home side in the first Test. However, it was the tourists who enjoyed conditions the most after winning a key toss.

The Black Caps were undone by Josh Hazlewood and Peter Siddle, and the match was effectively decided on day one.

Josh Hazlewood

Australian bowler Josh Hazlewood, centre, in action during Tuesday's play in Christchurch. Photo: AFP

Similar conditions greeted the two sides at Hagley Oval, and the same script was set to be followed when Australian skipper Steve Smith won the toss and again opted to bowl.

McCullum, as he has been prone to do, changed the course of the game - or so it seemed, helping the home side post a very competitive 370.

This was where the support act was supposed to take centre stage.

But the opening bowling combination of Tim Southee and Trent Boult have been off key this summer - so much so that Southee wasn't even given the new ball by McCullum, when the replacement ball was taken at the 80 over mark during the second innings.

Boult too has been unable to find the rhythm that made him such a handful last summer.

The Black Caps can't be competitive against Australia with an opening bowling combination that can only take seven wickets between them in a series.

"Because of my inability to win a toss, I don't think that helped them. They would have appreciated bowling first in both these Test matches plus some of the other conditions we were presented with in Australia," McCullum reflected after the match.

"Trent and Tim in particular will be disappointed with their series but that's the way it goes sometimes and I'd expect them to bounce back."

Neil Wagner celebrates a wicket 2016

New Zealand player Neil Wagner celebrates a wicket against Australia on Monday. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

McCullum accepted, though, that Southee had some reassessing to do.

'He is a strong leader in the group but Tim's got some challenges in the next little while.

"There's other guys coming through who are performing very well, Matt Henry in particular, and it's going to push Tim to make sure he's operating at his best, which we saw for a good 12-18 months. He's got some challenges...."

With Southee and Boult out of sorts, the Black Caps relied on workhorse Neil Wagner to keep in the game. His 6-106 was well deserved but it couldn't turn the Test New Zealand's way.

A new era for the Black Caps

New Zealand are a strong competitive unit at one-day level, sitting second behind Australia, but they remain battlers on the Test scene sitting in sixth spot - and that seems unlikely to change anytime soon.

The depth simply isn't there: with the batting relying on Kane Williamson and the bowling on Southee and Boult, all three need to be on song.

Before his 97 in the second innings, Williamson had posted scores of 16, 22, and 7 this series.

Kane Williamson and Brendon McCullum in Christchurch 2016.

Kane Williamson and Brendon McCullum during their last match together, in Christchurch. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

McCullum's departure will see Williamson take over the captaincy. Will being the lynchpin of the Black Caps' batting order and the team's skipper become a burden?

He will offer a very different captaincy style to McCullum. He's not at ease in the spotlight and will need time to grow into the role.

McCullum, though, said he believed Williamson would be a tougher taskmaster than himself.

"We've got the enjoyment and the culture spot on, and everyone is very relaxed and we play the game for the right reasons and everyone has bought into that.

"We'll see from the next group of leaders that they're a little bit younger and a bit more professional than what I am.

"I'm probably a bit more old school and that will assist in being able to take the team to a more consistent level.

"If there's one criticism of us, we've probably been a little bit inconsistent - with flashes of brilliance. The next stage for this team is to reach a high performing level on a consistent basis."

And with that, he was off for a beer.

McCullum's milestones

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