World Test Championship

Brendon McCullum: England gamble on inspiration over experience for Test coach

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England’s new men’s Test coach has never held such a role for a red-ball team, so what made the ECB opt for the inexperienced Brendon McCullum?

The 40-year-old New Zealander only retired as a player in 2019, but carried a reputation of being an inspirational leader into his coaching career.

And McCullum has since enjoyed success in T20 coaching roles, winning the CPL with Trinbago Knight Riders in 2020 and taking Kolkata Knight Riders to the final of the IPL in 2021.

Those two roles are the sum of McCullum’s major coaching experience prior to his appointment as head coach of the England men’s cricket team. And his appointment makes him the third inexperienced appointment in a matter of weeks at the top of English Test cricket, following Rob Key and Ben Stokes being named as Managing Director and Test Captain respectively.

But it took more than just a good interview to persuade the England and Wales Cricket Board to give McCullum one of the biggest coaching jobs in the game.

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McCullum’s influence on white-ball cricket saw him captain New Zealand to the final of the 2015 World Cup, implementing a playing style that helped revolutionise the game and is credited as inspiring England’s ‘white-ball reset’ under Eoin Morgan.

But less heralded is McCullum’s similar influence as captain on the New Zealand Test team, where he played a leading role in turning around the team’s fortunes, helping instil the style and attitude that paved the way for the current success.

McCullum took over a team at a low ebb in 2012. But such was his impact that two years later he won the New Zealander of the Year award for his efforts on and off the pitch in turning around the country’s cricketing fortunes.

“The way we played, there was no soul,” McCullum reflected in an interview with the New Zealand Herald in 2014, the midway point of his tenure.

“If we're being honest, at that point the perception of the New Zealand cricket team was that we were overpaid, under-delivering, lazy prima donnas.

"We decided that we couldn't win every game, but what we could do is change the way we played and the attitude towards us and the attitude within the group... players changed, players' personalities and behaviours started to change.”

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The parallels between New Zealand’s Test team in 2012 and the England team in 2022 are clear, and McCullum’s success in changing that culture clearly played a large part in persuading the ECB that he was the right man to lead another Test reset.

"I was involved with the interview process and he knocked it out the park," ECB advisor and former England Test captain Andrew Strauss told reporters this week. "But these appointments aren't about interviews. They're about approach, really.

"The first thing is about mindset, and embedding that mindset in the players.

"He wasn't scared of making mistakes (as captain) and I think that's what this Test team needs a bit at the moment.

“They need someone to back them, they need someone to give them confidence and inspire them and they need to actually break the shackles and realise how good they are and I think he's the perfect person to do that.”

Fittingly, McCullum’s era as coach of the England Men’s Test team will start with a series against his home nation New Zealand, with the reigning World Test Champions arriving for three Tests in June.

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