In a year in which New Zealand have found a new place amongst the game’s elite in ODI cricket, their captain has endured a remarkably lean year in the format.
Brendon McCullum has been scoring runs for fun in the Test arena and led his side to their most successful year in their Test history. He has also overseen a sensational run of results that has seen the Kiwi’s come into the World Cup in their best shape yet. Yet his own ODI form has been nothing to write home about, a career of average of 30.27 is actually 3 runs higher than his effort in the last 12 months.
Under McCullum’s stewardship, the Kiwi’s have recorded an outstanding record of 15 wins in their last 22 completed ODI’s. Once considered a member of the also-rans of ODI cricket, New Zealand can now genuinely demand a seat at the top table. McCullum has often been credited for his ‘funky’ captaincy and ability to eek the best out of his players, in the upcoming World Cup he will be hoping to continue this while also reversing his personal form.
This World Cup could well be the making of McCullum as a batsman. As his Test improvements attest, he has the technique and temperament to succeed in most conditions, and this will stand him in good stead come the pressure of the knockout stages. His aggressive style and no-fear brand of cricket is crucial to his teams’ success. Alongside Martin Guptill at the top of the order, he will be keen to get off to a solid start to lay a platform for a supremely talented middle order.
Not only is McCullum leading a talented side into the tournament, he is also marshalling a seriously in form squad. Indeed, with Guptill’s hundred in the warm-up match with Zimbabwe this week, the last piece of the batting jigsaw was complete. Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor have both been in red-hot form over the past few months, and head into the tournament playing some of the best cricket of their careers. Coupled alongside the wealth of seam bowling talent at New Zealand’s disposal, it is easy to see why they are many people’s favourites to make the final.
McCullum certainly does have some great players at his disposal, but his skill has been in prising the performances from them. Tim Southee has flourished into the leader of the attack and alongside Mitchell McCleneghan and the devastatingly quick Adam Milne, they form a world class trio. This is without mentioning left-armer Trent Boult or the wily Kyle Mills.
If McCullum can steer his side to World Cup glory on home territory it will undoubtedly be the finest achievement of his thus far excellent career. To do so he will have to handle the pressures that come with having a talented squad. No longer are New Zealand the World Cup dark horse, amongst many people’s favourites to win the trophy.
This could well be McCullum’s World Cup. If he can arrest his slump in form, the rest of the pieces should fall into place. He has a hungry, young and talented squad, home advantage and the will to succeed.