David Leggat: Brendon McCullum has fire left for Australia

Sunday’s duck a natural risk of skipper’s all-in style, not evidence he’s past it.
Brendon McCullum was dismissed for a first-ball duck during the third ODI between New Zealand and Pakistan at Eden Park. Photo / Getty Images
Brendon McCullum was dismissed for a first-ball duck during the third ODI between New Zealand and Pakistan at Eden Park. Photo / Getty Images

Brendon McCullum probably doesn't want to be perusing the bizarre world of social media much right now.

In the wake of a first ball duck on his return from a month off against Pakistan at Eden Park on Sunday, the boo brigade have been out in force, attacking his cricket and his character. Some of these bozos seriously need to get a life.

McCullum, you'd imagine, inured himself to that years ago.

Sure it wasn't what McCullum, or New Zealand, wanted - a hook to fine leg off Mohammad Amir - but going hard from ball one has been the method of the New Zealand skipper in short form cricket for several seasons.

People are prone to forget the wonderful days when he's come off, and playing the way he does, there inevitably has to be a tradeoff.

But the more perceptive may have detected a feeling the skipper was, now and then, slightly detached from events on Sunday.

Kane Williamson appeared to be directing traffic at times; McCullum was certainly a less overt leader than of yore.

He is preparing for his final hurrah, and if any opponent can inspire him it would surely be the Aussies.

Now remember, he'd been a month on the other side of the boundary recovering from a damaged back hurling himself into boundary hoardings. His last bat was on Boxing Day against Sri Lanka - 55 off 25 balls.

On Sunday, his full-on determination was in evidence early, a couple of sprint, sprawl, gather and returns on the spin reinforcing the view that he goes at 100 per cent or not at all.

There have been signs earlier that McCullum is counting the days, notably during the Hamilton test before Christmas; that his body and mind say enough. This is not an unusual situation for athletes nearing the end, and can make a good case for them to walk away at that point, rather than press on.

But McCullum has the full backing of the national selectors. They want him there, first man through the gate, leading against Australia. Williamson has insisted more than once McCullum is boss, that he was happy to fill in. Williamson's time, in any case, is not far away.

"None in the slightest," was selector Gavin Larsen's response to whether he and coach Mike Hesson had any concerns about McCullum's body and soul being up to the Australian challenge.

"He's going to go out with a bang, I'm convinced of that. I know he's incredibly keen and enthusiastic to make a real impact across this series, and I'm sure he will."

McCullum is, in Hesson's words, "a fiercely determined and passionate Kiwi man so he is really looking forward to next month".

To which the nay-sayers would doubtless respond that they would say that.

Larsen is sure that "mentally Brendon is going to produce the goods".

"He will acknowledge his body isn't at 100 per cent but as Brendon says himself - and this is the key thing for me - he's either 100 per cent in or out. There's no doubt in my mind that we're going to see him create some serious impact."

Don't be surprised to see the man who has led New Zealand's reinvigoration as a cricket nation stir himself for a final roar.

More than 20,000 tickets for Wednesday's game against Australia had been sold by last night.

- NZ Herald

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