Cricket: Lesser-known McCullum making his name

By Daniel Richardson

Nathan McCullum. Photo / Getty Images
Nathan McCullum. Photo / Getty Images

When your younger brother is known for signing million-dollar Twenty20 contracts and being the face of the Black Caps' top-order it's easy to stay out of the limelight.

But Nathan McCullum has carved out a handy record of his own in Twenty20 cricket during the past few years despite seeing his much more high-profile brother, Brendon, receive more of the plaudits.

Granted, Nathan has never smashed a scintillating Twenty20 century or blasted a test-match double hundred for New Zealand but since his international debut in 2007 he has been impressive.

In 34 Twenty20 matches for New Zealand he has claimed 36 wickets at an average of 16.58 but more importantly his off-spinners concede only 6.53 runs per over - a highly respectable mark in the game's craziest format.

He also adds useful lower-order batting, while there are few more athletic fielders in the national side than the 32-year-old who was also a promising footballer.

The all-rounder is ranked the fifth-best bowler in international Twenty20 cricket and has enjoyed stints with Lancashire in England, the Pune Warriors in the IPL and the Sydney Sixers in Australia's Big Bash.

His first-class numbers aren't as flattering as he averages 42.48 with the ball and 25.16 with the bat from 56 matches but he has a firm place in the national 20-over side, and his next major assignment gets under way this week at the Twenty20 World Cup in Sri Lanka.

"As you've seen, spin plays a huge part in Twenty20 cricket and I guess my role is just the same as it has been for last couple of years in Twenty20,'' he said.

"Maybe bowl an over in the first six and then bowl through the middle and possibly at the end and tie down the innings. Work with bowling in pairs with other guys and just try and hold the run chase throughout the middle; and obviously with the bat is just to contribute where I can in the middle order.''

New Zealand begin their campaign against Bangladesh in Pallekele on Friday before they take on Pakistan two days later to round out the group stages.

The Kiwis need to finish in the top two of their group to move through to the Super Eight where teams will be split in to two pools of four.

From the Super Eight round the top two sides in each pool will move on to the semifinals.

McCullum said New Zealand had the side to make a run at the finals given their vast experience with veterans like Jacob Oram, James Franklin and Daniel Vettori on their roster.

"You look at your squad, we've got a good squad and if we play to our potential ... and we play the way we actually know that we can play consistently then I'm sure that our bowling stocks will carry us through as well as our batting and explosive fielding. We've got some good things in our team, it's just a matter of us learning how to play them every single day of the week.''

McCullum also thinks New Zealand are more than overdue to finally win a World Cup to go alongside the Champion's Trophy victory in 2000 as their only major international tournament triumph.

"It's a massive opportunity for us to win a tournament and myself and all the guys are looking at it that way. We are not here to just compete. We are here to win the tournament and that's what we want to do so we are pretty focused on that and it's one step at a time at the moment.''

- APNZ

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