McCullum x Stokes: A significant philosophical change in Test Cricket?

20th February 2015:

An out-of-sorts England cricket team was destroyed by a Brendon McCullum onslaught in Wellington, which saw the Kiwis chase down England’s paltry score inside 13 overs. This match was the perfect example of how New Zealand played the 2015 World Cup under Baz. ATTACK, ATTACK AND MORE ATTACK.

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17th June 2015:

Four months after that absolute demolition at the hands of Baz, England was once again facing another huge task, a target of 350. What followed at Trent Bridge that day completely changed the way the One Day game was played after that. England chased down the target comfortably with 36 balls left and started a significant philosophical change in how the game was played, not just by the English team but by every other team.

12th May 2022:

England Cricket Board announced that their new Head Coach would be Brendon McCullum, with Stokes leading the side and these two decisions are a manifestation of ECB’s intention of creating another philosophical change in yet another format and the display of fearless cricket played by England on day 5 of the 2nd test match against New Zealand was the announcement of those intentions to the entire cricketing world.

From 2015 woes to 2019 celebrations:

The One Day game changed drastically in the span of 4 years between the 2015 and the 2019 world cups, and if you ask us what the reason was? It was how Brendon McCullum led the underdog Kiwi side into the finals with an element of fearlessness and ruthlessness in their game. New Zealand was probably the team that impressed the most in the 2015 World Cup with their consistency in winning all the games on their road to the final at the MCG. On the other side of the spectrum was the team that disappointed the most, England. They failed to beat a single Test-playing team, and their only wins came against associate sides Scotland and Afghanistan. 

The Morgan-led side faced massive criticism at the hands of the English media and enormous backlash from their fans. Now was the time for England to change the way they play their game and start something new, and they needed a template to follow, and guess what? The most disappointing team at the 2015 World Cup took their inspiration from the most impressive team. They chose New Zealand’s attacking template and mastered that for 4 years, eventually leading up to the Lords Cricket Stadium, where England defeated the Kiwis to lift the World Cup after a long-lasting wait.

The Start of the Second Innings for Baz:

McCullum, known for his swashbuckling style of attacking from ball one, started his coaching career with Kolkata and Trinbago Knight Riders and earned his first silverware with TKR winning the CPL 2020. Baz tried to bring his philosophy to the KKR side in the IPL, which did shine at times and looked invincible, but due to the lack of bench strength and more options, the ship derailed. 

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Harsha Bhogle, in his review of KKR’s 2022 IPL season, mentioned that “McCullum didn’t have the right horses to run his course”, which was on point because, in all fairness to what Rahane has achieved in the longest format of the game for India, he is not a T20 player and at least not a player who can play the Baz-way which requires you to go all guns blazing from the very first ball. Venkatesh Iyer, who got the limelight at the UAE leg of the 2021 edition and was retained for this edition, couldn’t replicate his exploits and had to be dropped. Shreyas Iyer was roped in by McCullum as his captain, and Iyer did play some swift knocks here and there throughout the season, but the top order never fired in unison which put all the pressure on the Dre Russ.

You cannot have such top-order failures in a side which plays attacking cricket, and this was the reason McCullum’s KKR bowed out of the tournament in the group stage itself. 

The Promising Future:

Although with England, McCullum has a bunch of players who terrifically adapted to the new style post the 2015 World Cup and McCullum can get the best out of these players. The new captain Stokes who has played two of the most remarkable innings in ODI and Test Cricket, is the perfect leader for this side with his never say die attitude and attacking intent.

This combination of McCullum x Stokes will never stop at anything. They will always want more, and this wanting for more could result in a major philosophical change in how Test Cricket would be played in the future. If the 2nd Test match against New Zealand is anything to go by, in the next few years, all of us will be witnessing the historical change in Test Cricket, and I am, for one, very excited to see how McCullum x Stokes pans out. Stay Tuned with The Sportsway for more updates.

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