Cricket: A tale of two McCullums

By Kris Shannon of APNZ in Hyderabad

Brendon McCullum was one of the few New Zealand batsmen who showed an ability to occupy the crease in the first cricket test against India - but that was far from the case to begin with.

After being promoted to open the batting for the first test in Hyderabad, McCullum was given the trying task of making a dent in the hosts' total of 438.

He needed application to survive in testing conditions, a defensive mentality with an ability to cash in when the opportunity presented itself.

What McCullum instead provided was an innings all too familiar - filled with panache, power and culminating in a premature departure.

But the batsman soon received another chance - the following day, in fact, after the Black Caps managed to bat only two sessions - and he played like he had a point to prove.

While McCullum began with a boundary in the opening innings, his first four took 58 balls. He crawled his way to 16 at stumps and picked up where he left off the following morning, forging a determined partnership with Kane Williamson as New Zealand attempted to haul themselves back into the match.

They didn't, of course, capitulating in familiar fashion after McCullum (42 from 130) was sawn off by a disastrous decision from umpire Steve Davis.

Before the dismissal, however, McCullum had laid the foundations on which to build when the second test begins in Bangalore on Friday.

Destructive and match-winning in shorter forms of the game, McCullum has copped his fair share of criticism in the past for appearing to have no off-switch when wearing the whites. But he insisted his opening knock was hardly as reckless as it appeared.

"In that first innings I felt pretty calm until the ball I got out," he said. "I felt like I was taking good options. They presented me with some bad balls early on and I was in a good mindset to be able to capitalise on them."

That may be true, but a test batsman must also find a balance to avoid needlessly giving away his wicket. McCullum admitted his attempt to punch Pragyan Ojha over covers was ill-advised and left him wanting to make amends in his next turn with the bat.

"I guess one over-aggressive shot led to my dismissal and, ultimately, put my team under pressure as well. It was frustrating," he said.

"Second innings, I was able to make that last a lot longer and try to become a little more defensively sound and probably look to bat a lot longer, I guess, than the initial stage of trying to be positive and just react to what I saw. That was the shift I made."

That shift was certainly working until Davis missed a massive inside edge and adjudged him LBW, and McCullum thought he and Williamson had demonstrated how their team can cope with an Indian side which dismissed them twice for less than 200.

"We managed to occupy the crease for a period of time and both of us worked very hard at being defensively sound and having faith in it," McCullum said.

"Once we did that, we batted some time and batted some balls and it definitely became easier. That's the message that we've got to continue to get right throughout the team - once we do get over that initial 20 or 30 balls, which is going to be difficult against a very good spin attack, it does become easier.

"We've got the clutch on to that and try to get that message permeating throughout the team."


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