Mark Richardson: McCullum best suited to batting in top order

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Over the last couple of series, the dilemma of where Brendon McCullum should be batting in one-day internationals has reared its head once more.

Until the last two games I was being reluctantly won over by those arguing that he should go back down the order to capitalise on the newly incorporated batting powerplay - where the old firm of Jacob Oram and McCullum could be reunited.

However, on the evidence of what I have seen in the two Twenty20 fixtures I am firmly of the belief once more that he should be persevered with at the top.

I know it was only T20 and his crash-bang approach is tailormade for opening in that game, but the way he went about his two man-of-the-match efforts in Christchurch and Wellington may have provided a watershed moment for McCullum.

With the hitting power that permeates through this team, McCullum's true value to his side is in the time he can spend at the crease. This is something I feel he may have forgotten and he sold himself short in trying to demonstration his potential destructive abilities.

There is no question the Black Caps aim for a flying start through Ryder and McCullum, which they can do. But even with the trust they may show in those to come behind them, quick 25s at the top of an innings on the whole achieve very little.

If McCullum can take the same mentality he took in his two 60 not outs in the T20s into the ODIs then those scores would convert to possible 150s. Scores like that achieve wins.

I was surprised at his comments of displeasure with his first match-winning effort in Christchurch. Sure, it was punctuated with mistimed shots and lacked the fluency he would desire, but he achieved something vitally important in one's development as a player in any sport he won ugly.

The way he played at Wellington was quite brilliant. He paced that innings beautifully and showed excellent process. The fact that it got a little closer than the Black Caps would have liked at the end was no fault of McCullum's.

The case for McCullum to stay put at the top is strengthened with the presence of Oram back in the mix but what also strengthens my conviction is the absence of Scott Styris, who was our best player of spin bowling. Right now I believe McCullum to be our best batsman against spin bowling and there is a good chance India will try to use 20 overs of spin in the one-dayers.

Nullifying Harbajan Singh will be important to the Black Caps' strategy. They will want to deny him wickets while still picking off runs. McCullum is most equipped to do this and has the ability to change gears against the slow bowlers.

Chances are the first overs of spin will come earlier than later and I would like to see McCullum out there batting against Harbajan from the spinner's first ball.

- Herald on Sunday

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