New Zealand v South Africa, World Cup 2015, 1st semi-final, Auckland | Insights: McCullum tops strike-rate charts

There are two categories of great batsman- first, the one whom you’d like to bat for your life, second, the one whom you would watch for sheer pleasure. The Dravids, the Waughs and the likes of Miandads fall under the first category. Mccullum fits into the second along with the likes of Gilchrist, Jayasuriya and Sehwag. Of course, “great” is a word often overused and at times misused. The most common fault with mankind in using this word is that we tend to practice it in the most arbitrary way as possible.

 

Some fifty years later, kids might look at Brendon Mccullum’s career ODI average of 30, test average of 38 and wonder what the fuss was all about. If you just look at the statistics, the wicketkeeper–turned– specialist batsman will never look a great player in your eyes but what he brought into the field was more important than what he got himself as numbers in his career spanning over fourteen years. Unlike his statistics, for those who have seen him in real action, he is a flair player, an exhilarating artist who will always keep you awake, even at night. If you are his teammate, you may not feel fully assured when he is at the crease but you will certainly feel that the opponent is sensing threatening presence of the man himself. A Mccullum wicket is always a big wicket, no matter what the situation is and no matter in what batting form he is going through.

 

To New Zealand’s biological standard, he is a short man, someone not as big as Jacob Oram. He is not as consistent as someone like Jacques Kallis. He doesn’t have a sublime touch like that of David Gower. But the most amazing thing about his batting is his acute reflexes, fearless mind and his threatening presence at the crease. There are not many people in the world who can hit a paddle shot over the keeper to a 155 KPH missile from Shaun Tait. If there is someone, god must have carved his reflexes in his most spare hours.

 

It’s difficult to assume a batsman’s psychology merely looking his actions and gestures on TV but it looks as if, when he enters the crease to bat for his country, he goes there with a clear mindset. If the ball is there to be hit, he will smash it. For him, there is no planning. There is nothing to be reserved for the future. There is nothing to regret of the past. He seems to live at present, the very moment. Sometimes he fails and disappoints. When he doesn’t fail, we are always bound to see something spectacular.

 

Mccullum will always be in the list of my entertainer’s eleven. A lot of credit of IPL’s success must go to him as he brought the tournament to light with his electrifying inning of 158 not out against Royal Challengers Bangalore. Nobody revolutionized cricket as much as Devillers and Mccullum did in the last five years or so. His real legacy lies in the way he transformed an innocent and weak looking New Zealand team into a dashing and attacking side. In fact, he transformed the mindset of even some of his rivals like England towards limited overs cricket.

 

Despite being a terrific batsman, Mccullum is not a coaching manual. If you want to learn about the proper technique of batting, you should rather look at someone like Atherton or Boycott. If you want to be a really good batsman, you should never look at Mccullum. It’s not because he is bad; it’s rather because he can never be copied. How can you copy art? How can you replicate innovation?

 

There is a great contrast between Mccullum- the cricketer and Mccullum- the human being. He seems to have left cricket where it should have been left. He is a fierce competitor in the field but a charming human being outside. He is that sort of guy with whom you would like to sip in a can of beer or a glass of red wine and watch a cricket match on a hot sunny day. He is one of those characters who you wish lived forever young and strong and never retired just like the picture of the Dorian Grey. There are many cricketers in international cricket who debut at 34. For someone who has played 100 consecutive tests without missing single one of them, isn’t 34 an young age to give up everything and start the next phase of life?

 

McCullum Announcing his retirement on a Press conference
Photo credit: Cricket.com.au

When a special player of any sports retires, newspapers and magazines are filled with his or her legacy and admiration for few weeks. After few weeks or months same columns get filled with the details and admiration of another man who is lot younger and the focus of present. The old man becomes like an antic material preserved in a wooden cupboard, something valued for historical and artistic significance not to satiate the present day needs.

 

He leaves the stage as one of the game’s finest leading men and has provided a space for someone like Kane Williamson, who will soon become the focus of present. But the world will always miss his presence at the crease. Will you ever forget that gutsy triple ton against India at the Basin Reserve? Or that 26 ball 59 against South Africa in the world cup semifinal. Or that 202 against Pakistan at Sharjah – an inning dedicated to late Philip Hughes.

Mccullum is fiery. He is unorthodox, unconventional, unusual but pleasing and humble. What he does with the willow in his hand `is similar to what a painter does with his brush in a canvas, to what a poet does with his playful words and to what a great singer does with his blissful voice. You will never see those quick arms, even quicker reflexes and intrepid mind. That ferocious charge against the fastest bowlers in the world. That silent walk towards the pavilion after he gets caught in the deep.

 

Those tattoos. That smile. Those electric phenomenon. I bet, you will miss everything.

 

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