Ex-England captain questions appointment

Publish Date
Friday, 13 May 2022, 10:53AM

The most important partnership in any team is between the captain and coach. It needs two people with similar ideas but different personalities, then you can bounce off each other and meet in the middle.

If you have two people who are too similar, too gung-ho, the team can become too attacking and one dimensional. 'Everything is perfect, everything is strong and great'. Now and then, however, you need a voice that is adding a bit of pessimism to challenge that mindset.

We know the kind of player Brendon McCullum was and Ben Stokes is now. The perception of Brendon is that he is attacking, flamboyant, risky, a gambler and a bit of a lad. What is our impression of Ben? Exactly the same.

I don't think anyone would have batted an eyelid had Brendon been appointed white-ball coach, working with his great mate, Eoin Morgan. Since he retired, his whole coaching career has been spent in franchise cricket.

We can question his credentials and experience as a coach at Test level but what is certain about Brendon is that he has a huge amount of charisma.

He has been good mates with James Anderson over the years, he is very popular with the England team and is friends with a lot of the players. Can he now cross the divide from friend to becoming the boss and leader?

His New Zealand side were exciting and played a brand of cricket that was great to watch but did they win anything? He will know his challenge is to make England competitive home and away. It was not until Kane Williamson replaced him as captain and made them a steadier side that they started to win and become a really fantastic Test match team.

Maybe Brendon laid the foundations for Williamson, but I never believe one captain's reign affects the next. It is about your time in the job and performance at the helm.

What this pair will need is a safe pair of hands with them as chief selector. The backroom team will be very important and Rob Key must make sure this combination is not gung-ho all the time.

Test cricket is about who can play long, disciplined periods of cricket and bore the opposition out. We now have in charge of the England Test team two cricketers who do not want to play long periods of boring Test match cricket. The best teams in the world in Test cricket are the ones who can come through the difficult times and seize the moment to win or recognise the crucial hour in the Test.

I am all for attacking play and being aggressive but I don't think this England Test team is in a position to play that way at the moment. They have to take small steps first, get used to playing long hard periods of Test cricket and then in time, if you get a group of players with a lot of confidence, they can play more flamboyantly. They need a bit of 'backs to the walls' stuff first. I hope Brendon can drive that.

He is the kind of person who might not want to do that but he has to realise England are in a position where they just need to do the basics for longer periods than they have been doing.

They cannot be flamboyant because they will get bowled out cheaply. They are not a team who can play a huge amount of shots. They have to give themselves a chance to stay in. Our batting line-up has made fundamental mistakes and not been able to cope with pressure of quality bowling and pressurised situations. Mentally and technically they have not been good enough.

If English cricket has overlooked someone like Gary Kirsten for a second time I do find it incredibly bizarre. I don't see how we have made that call twice. He is the perfect mentor, thinker and culture driver who has done it before and has the t-shirt. What England have gone for in Brendon is exciting and a big name, but it is a big risk as well.

He is taking over England at the right time. They are at their lowest ebb since the mid 1990s. He will not have to do much for us all to see a massive improvement but if it doesn't happen quickly then there will be questions asked about his appointment and whether England would have been better off with a safer pair of hands, more experienced and know how to coach in Test cricket.

But one thing is for sure, we are in for an interesting ride.

This article was first published on nzherald.co.nz and is republished here with permission