Brendon McCullum relishing Ben Stokes connection but denies England will play 'cavalier' cricket

By Sports Desk May 19, 2022

Brendon McCullum believes Ben Stokes will bring a "follow-me" attitude to the England captaincy as the new coach set out his blueprint to transform the team's nosediving fortunes.

England have won just one of their past 17 Test matches, a dire run that has led to McCullum and Stokes finding themselves thrust into fresh roles.

New Zealander McCullum has been hired as Test head coach to replace Chris Silverwood, who departed after a thumping Ashes defeat, while Stokes steps in to succeed Joe Root as skipper.

As a batsman, McCullum was among the swashbuckling best in the game, while Stokes is widely considered one of the most gutsy and exciting players England have had in decades.

Their dynamic will be eagerly observed, and McCullum said he is enthused by the prospect of working closely with the all-rounder to turn around a sinking side.

"I like the idea of trying to build something from a pretty low base," McCullum said. "Without being disrespectful to what's been before in the English set-up, I think the last 12 to 18 months has been trying times.

"It looks like there's an appetite for change and an appetite to try to recalibrate things somewhat and try to reengage some of the talent which sits amongst the English players.

"With Stokesy in the chair as the skipper, I think our personalities should align as well, and hopefully we can play that kind of entertaining [game]. I won't say 'cavalier', because that's probably what other people expect us to do, but it's certainly not how I anticipate us playing the game."

In the interview, released by the England and Wales Cricket Board, McCullum spoke of what he admired most about Stokes, a former rival on the pitch who will now be a close ally.

"I've had the luxury of playing against Stokesy in the past, and I've admired him from afar, his tough character and also the style of cricket that he plays," McCullum said.

"He's uncompromising, but he seems like an immensely loyal person as well. The style of cricket he plays certainly lines up with the style of cricket I like to play as well."

McCullum admitted the up-and-at-'em style is "not for everyone", but that looks to be the only way England can go given their new leadership.

"Stokesy will be a fine leader for us because he'll be a real follow-me type of guy," McCullum said. "He'll go over the wall first and take the opposition on and that's a pretty exciting proposition for a coach to have a captain like that."

McCullum said his England job would not be all "beer and skittles" as he prepares to face intense scrutiny, starting when England tackle his native New Zealand in three Tests in June.

He said there was "meat on the bone" of the challenge, enticing him to take on the role.

McCullum played 101 Tests in a stellar career between 2004 and 2016, scoring 6,453 runs at an average of 38.64, winning 11 and losing the same number of his 31 matches as New Zealand skipper. The maverick right-handed batter racked up 260 ODI appearances and 71 Twenty20 Internationals, scoring 6,083 runs in the 50-over game and 2,140 in the shortest format.

He faced Stuart Broad and James Anderson often enough to know England should at least give them another shot at Tests, after both were left at home for the recent West Indies tour, having previously been used sparingly against Australia.

Stokes has pushed for their reinstatement, and McCullum said: "I love the fact Stokesy was so strong on it.

"One of the messages that I'll try to get across to them and work out is: 'How big a legacy can you guys leave for the next generation?'

"If we can extract that little bit extra out of them in the last couple of years in their careers then that's going to go a long way to being able to be successful as an English side.

"I'm incredibly lucky to have over 1,100 wickets just waltzing back into the line-up."

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