Andrew Alderson

Andrew Alderson is a sport writer for the Herald on Sunday.

Cricket: Veteran keeping focus ahead for World Cup

A contemplative Brendon McCullum met with media in Kandy yesterday as he weighs up the significance of the World T20 tournament result on his career legacy.

It was hard to gauge McCullum's demeanour in the foyer of the New Zealand team's hotel. Perhaps it was quiet confidence; perhaps it was a distant focus encompassing the desire to pick up some elusive international silverware for a team he has been at the core of for more than 10 years. Perhaps it was just the view out of the bay window on to Sri Lanka's lush highlands that caught his eye.

McCullum is adamant this team can produce a repeat of 2011 where they turned around 11 straight sub-continent one-day international defeats to make the semifinals of the World Cup, defeating a rampant South Africa in the quarter-finals. This time New Zealand has had to endure series defeats to South Africa, the West Indies and India in all but one format [the one-off T20 match win in India].

"I tried not to focus on what went wrong then [2011] and that applies this time. Yes we haven't had the greatest of lead-ins but there's the opportunity to play some good cricket over the next three weeks.

"[The wicket's] a bit slower here than in Colombo but the feedback from our guys who played in the Sri Lankan Premier League was that this pitch had some carry and bounce which should still suit our seam attack.

It's important to embed ourselves here because these three-hour games can tend to be a bit flippant.

"We've got to be wary that Bangladesh have a strong left-arm spin attack and world-class batsmen in Shakib Al Hasan and Tamim Iqbal."

One way New Zealand has proposed to counter the spin is to open with left-hander James Franklin.

"I don't know if it'll happen yet but it's a bit of a no-brainer to counter them," McCullum says. "It could also open up options for later in the innings. You've just got to throw all those things in the mix and not be too stubborn about your style of play."

McCullum seemed in a reflective mood when asked about the legacy he hopes to leave from the game. There was no suggestion of retirement but the chat left you wondering how much more of the touring lifestyle, the aches and pains in the joints and the significant off-field demands he can sustain as he nears his 31st birthday.

"You can't change people's perceptions," McCullum says. "It comes with the territory. From my point of view I have given it everything. I have worked incredibly hard on tour to try to make the team significantly better. It has meant spending a lot of time away from my family."

McCullum insists he is right to keep wickets tonight in New Zealand's opening match. He hyper-extended his right elbow colliding with Kyle Mills as both tried to catch Yuvraj Singh in New Zealand's recent T20 win in Chennai.

"I should be okay, I've done a bit of ligament damage, that's all."

Andrew Alderson flew to the Twenty20 World Cup in Sri Lanka courtesy of Emirates Airline (www.emirates.com/nz).

- NZ Herald

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