Cricket: Captain's place in batting elite has welcome payoff

By David Leggat

Brendon McCullum. Photo / Getty Images
Brendon McCullum. Photo / Getty Images

If he reflects on the past few weeks, Brendon McCullum could be forgiven for thinking the events of 2012 were just a bad dream.

His first 11 tests were winless. There were dog days but it was not always a case of getting done over; at times it was more about an inability to finish a strong situation. It was, above all, a year of learning and of some pain along the way.

When the West Indies arrived in the first half of the home summer the skipper needed runs, and got them, in the opening test at Dunedin.

His second ton of the summer arrived on Thursday and McCullum was then responsible for ramming home the significant advantage accrued that day by completing his second test double century on the last ball before lunch yesterday.

If Thursday was all about rescuing a parlous situation, with Kane Williamson for classy company, yesterday was a matter of making sure that hard-won ground was not surrendered.

He had help from Corey Anderson, Tim Southee and Ish Sodhi. But the operation turned on the leader.

McCullum is in elite batting company for New Zealand. Only six batsmen have made more in a test innings, excluding his own 225 four years ago, also against the Indians.

Among the best ways to lead a group, or team, is by the strength of your personal performance.

So, a couple of numbers. Consider McCullum's overall batting average in his 83rd test - 36.62. Now as a captain batting in New Zealand? 80.37 from nine innings.

Is that just by chance, or is there something more to it? After all, he's had batting failures overseas as captain. It may be that doing the job before the team's supporters brings out something extra in him.

Williamson described McCullum's batting on Thursday, from the time he completed his first 100 through to stumps, as ruthless.

Yesterday he kept up that attitude. So, while there were bold strokes - no McCullum innings will ever be without a quota of them - he also bided his time, if that was what the mood of the moment demanded.

For more than seven and a half hours, McCullum denied the Indian attack. His stickability was an important statement of intent.

He badly wants this team - his team - to win, and retain, respect. McCullum did his bit in spades over the past two days.

- NZ Herald

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