Cricket: McCullum holds off the goodbyes

By David Leggat

Retiring excitement machine goes deadpan on media as he focuses on coming series decider against Australia.
The kid from South Dunedin sees himself as a privileged and proud custodian as Black Caps skipper. Picture / Getty Images
The kid from South Dunedin sees himself as a privileged and proud custodian as Black Caps skipper. Picture / Getty Images

For the past few seasons, he's done pre-test press conferences on his ear.

A mix of humour, self-deprecation and insightful observations on what lies ahead have been the cornerstones of Brendon McCullum's conversations with the media.

He's never done tight-lipped, or the monosyllabic response.

Yesterday, he fronted the pre-test interrogation for the last time.

There will be one more official conference, about 45 minutes after the final ball of the second test against Australia. But the post-games are different, a chance to reflect on events.

Anyone thinking McCullum might offer a reflective thought on his 14 years as an international sportsman were out of luck. Not that he had nothing to say, just that he reckons, rightly, there's a better time and place coming up next week for that.

First off, there's a last bit of business to attend to at Hagley Oval - somehow turning around a dispiriting summer against Australia and producing a final resounding roar before he saddles up and heads to smaller, more lucrative cricket fields.

It was fitting his final bow is in what is now his home city, and one so ravaged by nature in the past five years - it spurred heartfelt remarks, leavened by a sprinkling of the ordinary bloke who went from dreadlocks and T-shirts to suit and tie, without losing that uncomplicated touch.

"To be able to do it in your home town, there's an element of romance there as well and it'll be nice.

"Hopefully we can get the result we want as well and go down to the local pub and have a few beers afterwards."

McCullum spoke of the search for a return to what has made teams under him the talk of the game: teams that played with resilience, positivity, smiles on their faces and and the ability to recognise, then seize, the important moments.

There was an amiable chip at his brother Nathan, off to play in the Pakistan Super League for the Quetta Gladiators and thus missing Brendon's farewell - "It's probably a good thing, otherwise he would have cried all week."

Yes, the Halberg awards were a night for cricket to savour.

His award for leadership was one of three the sport collected on Thursday night.

And perish the thought of a whiff of emotion or the hint of a tear yesterday.

As he memorably said after his epic 302 in Wellington two years ago, he's the kid from South Dunedin. They don't do tears down there.

McCullum expounded on how much the game has changed in his time, notably through the introduction of T20, for which he has played no small part in its rise.

But he underpinned his comments on the players' part in the game with an observation which goes to his character, and what he hopes he has helped nurture within this New Zealand team.

"You are just a custodian while you have the opportunity.

"That's one thing we tried to really drill into our group; it's not a right to play for your country, it's an absolute privilege."

And McCullum was not above personalising what the past few years have meant to him.

"I've been lucky enough over the last 14 years to grow up from a 20-year-old, quite brash person to hopefully what I am today, which I believe is a better person."

There is a view that perhaps his end came earlier this summer, that he's survived this far on cricket fumes. But yesterday there was no suggestion that he can't wait to put the test jersey away for good.

He wants his last lap to be special.

And with that, he was off, a final practice session with his team. McCullum has a week of lasts ahead.

- NZ Herald

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