New Zealand cricket great Brendon McCullum has switched to Team Rugby for the Black Clash Twenty20 clash on Friday in Christchurch.
McCullum was originally selected by Stephen Fleming as captain of Team Cricket – however the former Black Caps captain has confirmed he is set to play alongside Kieran Read, Israel Dagg and the Barrett brothers Jordie and Beauden in an All Blacks-laden Team Rugby side on Friday.
"Ted has been in my ear for months now that I'd end up playing for him - and in the end he was right," McCullum said.
McCullum – a representative rugby player in his youth – qualifies for Team Rugby on the grounds that his last competitive sports match on New Zealand soil was as fullback for the Matamata Senior B rugby team.
"For the purposes of selection for this event he is a rugby player – I've been saying that all along," Sir Graham said.
"I'm very glad that the organisers have come around to that way of thinking."
McCullum was philosophical about the dramatic turn of events.
"When I signed up for my season of rugby I didn't think it would have an impact on my cricket eligibility," he said. "But I guess that's why Ted is one of the best.
"I've played a lot of cricket with Flem and the Team Cricket guys. But I haven't played on the same team as Richie McCaw and Kieran Read, so this is actually quite a cool opportunity.
"And I'm looking forward to seeing what plans Flem and the boys have for me. I want to do well for whoever I play for so I'm really up for this challenge."
"We've been told that this decision is final. I'm sure Flem will find a suitable replacement.
Fleming said he was disappointed a loop hole in the rules had allowed his captain to be "poached" by Team Rugby – but confirmed he had already found the perfect replacement.
"We've recruited Nathan McCullum to take Brendon's place," Fleming said. "It was the only sensible move – and not just because at this late stage we've already got a team shirt with "McCullum" on the back!
"Nathan is a quality player who won matches for New Zealand with the bat and ball, so it's not like our side is any weaker."
Nathan McCullum said he was delighted to be called up to play in the match – and was looking forward to dismissing his brother.
"We've played against each other a few times over the years and it is always fun," Nathan said.
"But I don't really know how Brendon considers himself to be a rugby player – I reckon he is just star-struck," Nathan said.
To accommodate the switch – and placate Team Cricket - match officials granted Team Cricket the right to select a player from the Team Rugby line-up as compensation.
Team Cricket player-coach Stephen Fleming selected All Blacks halfback Aaron Smith, who now fills the wildcard spot in his line-up.
"I've heard through the grapevine that Aaron has been [Team Rugby captain] Kieran Read's main training partner and has been smashing it in the nets," Fleming said.
"So there's a bit of payback there in nicking Kieran's mate – but Aaron is also exactly the type of player we are after."
Smith confirmed he was looking forward to the chance to get one over some of his rugby mates.
"I was a bit surprised when I received the news that Flem had claimed me," Smith said.
"But it's actually pretty cool. I get the chance to play alongside some of the greats of New Zealand cricket and go head to head with some of my rugby mates. That's awesome."
Brendon McCullum's shock switch – along with Team Rugby's recruitment of Australian global T20 superstar David Hussey – levels an already intriguing contest even further.
As well as two experienced professionals, Team Rugby also boasts former Central Districts U19 opening bowler Jordie Barrett, New Zealand's U19 world cup captain Kaylum Boshier and former first class cricketer Jason Spice.
Team Rugby captain Read played senior club cricket at the age of 13 and captained Northern Districts at U19 level before deciding to concentrate on rugby, while Israel Dagg was a noted fast bowler as a schoolboy.
Team Cricket, however, boasts recent international stars such as 2015 world cup hero Grant Elliott, recently retired Black Caps wicket keeper Luke Ronchi, test cricket hat trick taker James Franklin and veteran batsman Hamish Marshall.
"It certainly is shaping up as an intriguing contest," Fleming said.
"Brendon's decision to jump ship has given it an extra bit of spice for sure. I can't imagine our bowlers are going to be thrilled with this news."
CONFIRMED FINAL LINE-UPS
Coach: Sir Graham Henry – first class wicket keeper, world cup winning coach
1 Kieran Read: (C) right hand bat, All Blacks captain, Swisse Ambassador
2 Richie McCaw: left arm seam, played a bit of rugby
3 Israel Dagg: right arm fast, All Blacks wing/fullback
4 Beauden Barrett: left hand bat, handy first five eighths
5 Jordie Barrett: Right arm fast, useful fullback
6 Brendon McCullum, T20 superstar
7 Jason Spice: left arm orthodox, first class cricket and rugby player
8 Ali Williams: right hand bat, 77 tests for the All Blacks
9 Kendra Cocksedge: batting all rounder, Black Ferns vice captain
10 Kaylum Boshier: all rounder, Captain of NZU19 in cricket / Taranaki No. 8
11 Ofisa Tonu'u: wicket keeper/batsman
12 David Hussey, International wildcard
1 Stephen Fleming (player coach)
2 Aaron Smith (Wildcard)
3 Grant Elliott
4 Luke Ronchi (wk)
5 Kyle Mills
6 Chris Harris
7 Nathan Astle
8 James Franklin
9 Hamish Marshall
10 Liz Perry
11 Nathan McCullum
Manager/motivator: Scott Robertson