The World's Best Backyard Cricketer

Publish Date
Thursday, 24 December 2015, 2:34PM
Getty Images

Getty Images

There is not a lot of middle ground with Brendon McCullum.

I don't get it- people either love or hate him, although as time passes, I suspect history will quite rightly treat him kindly. Of course there has never been much middle ground with his batting either. He was either creating absolute carnage, or he was back in the pavilion scratching his head. Perhaps the root cause of the polarising views of the soon to be retired Skipper?

For me, McCullum will always be the world's best backyard cricketer. The kid who always wants to be involved. If he wasn't smashing it around with the bat, he wanted to be as close to the action as possible. Initially as a wicketkeeper, and then as Captain. He even (not too seriously) dabbled with bowling! All the while doing on the international stage, what he would've done as a kid in the backyards, schoolyards and parks of Dunedin as a primary school boy. In other words, he has never lost sight of the joy of sport- a point many of his detractors should consider when they stare into the mirror.

Over the odd summer ale standing around the barbie, the debate inevitably comes up....."name your all time greatest Black Caps test side ?" McCullum will always be given the nod in my team, as wicket keeper.

Was he our greatest gloveman? Possibly not (Wally Lees gets my vote) but his numbers are well up there. As a keeper batsman, no one comes close. Ian Smith and Adam Parore grabbed a couple of test centuries- McCullum had five or six when he was keeping, and with a much higher average than the aforementioned who finished their careers with averages in the mid 20s.

Rod Marsh scored three centuries with an average of around 26, Ian Healey hit four tonnes with an average of 27, while the great Alan Knott tapped out five with an average of 32. The englishman perhaps the closest comparison to McCullum. Of course Adam Gilchrist turns all the numbers on their heads with 17 centuries at an average of 47, and then there's Kumar Sangakkara with 38 centuries and an average of 57. Insane!

Maybe he is the reason why many judge McCullum so harshly? Or maybe it's what I mentioned before? He has never stopped being that pumped up backyard cricketer. The fact that he's been reckless at times when more conservative options would have been appropriate clearly frustrates many, particularly when watching test cricket.

Sitting at the press conference at Clearwater on the outskirts of Christchurch, McCullum was able to laugh at himself and also chastise himself for some of his choices of shot selection, particularly in recent times.  But with one dayers and T20s, well, maybe it is more about risk taking? McCullum is a man for his time. The Twenty20 revolution and McCullum were the perfect storm. McCullum enriched T20 cricket, T20 cricket has made him fairly rich by New Zealand standards. Good luck to him.

The next month or two will be a bit of a Sinatra-like farewell for the former Dunedin man. I have always enjoyed those moments when Baz has bashed a delivery out of the park. He'll walk down the wicket, do a wee bit of gardening, a quick word to the non-striker, and then the hint of an impish grim, desperately trying to suppress the hype and emotion of the moment.

I always get the feeling that he really wants to fire out a "get that right up ya" to the suffering bowler he's just hit into the car park or pie stand. Hopefully, Sri Lankan, Pakistani and Australian bowlers will get to sample more of that experience through January and February.

Brian Ashby - Radio Sport

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