Brendon McCullum, the Black Caps great who led New Zealand to the Cricket World Cup final four years ago, couldn't be prouder of the team he left behind and has offered some wise words as they gear up for this year's tournament in May.

The 37-year-old has left international cricket in the past and these days can be found splitting fairways as much as hitting sixes. He is also more than happy to watch the World Cup build up as a "fan of New Zealand cricket".

Speaking to the Herald while playing at the 100th New Zealand Open pro-am in Queenstown, McCullum was impressed with the Black Caps both on and off the field over the past few years and says they have a realistic chance at taking out the World Cup.

"I think they're flying," he says. "They've done really well. The last couple years they've been superb [under] Kane Williamson's leadership and also the seniors within that team as well.


"They've really stood up and performed brilliantly over the last few years. They're going into the World Cup with a realistic chance and that's fantastic. You need a bit of luck as well in a World Cup but they certainly go in with a good chance.

"I also think the public's become really endeared to the New Zealand cricket team, too, because of the way they carry themselves as people as well as cricketers. And they play the game in the right spirit and the right manner so I couldn't be prouder of the boys and they're doing a great job."

Brendon McCullum walks off after playing his last home match for the Brisbane Heat. Photo / Photosport
Brendon McCullum walks off after playing his last home match for the Brisbane Heat. Photo / Photosport

McCullum was renowned for his batting prowess and bold aggression, but his greatest contribution to New Zealand cricket might have been as a leader, whether it was energising the team with self-belief or through his unflinching captaincy.

The bright lights of big international tournaments never seemed to phase McCullum, his audacious four over extra cover on the first ball he faced at the 2015 World Cup being a reminder of the ice-cool blood that runs through his veins.

And as he watches this year from the sidelines, the former skipper put his leadership hat back on and offered the team some sage advice.

"Just stay true to those things that have worked well for you in the lead up to the World Cup. Just because there's more pressure on, doesn't matter when all those around you are losing their head, it's important you keep yours.

"And if they can stay true to their style and stay true to the brand of cricket they've been playing, and they stay tight as a unit, then they can do anything."

His cautious optimism seems to be shared by the team and among fans. But it hasn't been all smooth sailing for Gary Stead's men in the lead up to the tournament in England and Wales.

Brendon McCullum during the 2015 ICC Cricket World Cup match between the Back Caps and Australia. Photo / Photosport
Brendon McCullum during the 2015 ICC Cricket World Cup match between the Back Caps and Australia. Photo / Photosport

Over the past few months, the man to fill McCullum's role in the opening pairing with Martin Guptill has become one of the biggest talking points ahead of the Black Caps' World Cup squad announcement in April.

"It'll be interesting who they go with because they're two very different players," he says about the Black Caps' selection conundrum.

"I haven't seen the World Cup squad, obviously, but [Colin] Munro or [Henry] Nicholls they're both very good players. Or there's other guys up there as well who can step up. Just depends what style of cricket they want to play really.

"[They have] good options and whoever goes out there and gets the opportunity I'm sure they'll do well. They're surrounded by a huge amount of experienced players, too, so it gives them a good chance."

Given some of these perceived issues, having someone of McCullum's calibre back and available might have been a tantalising prospect for Kiwi cricket fans. But McCullum won't be trading in his golf cheese-cutter cap for a black one.

While he admits he does "miss the boys", McCullum is now enjoying the back-end of his cricketing career and being an interested observer of the team he once led to the brink of a World Cup triumph.

Maybe this year they'll do him one better. Either way, he'll be watching.

"Nah [coming out of retirement] hasn't crossed my mind. I'm too busy playing a bit of golf," he laughs. "I can still be competitive in these leagues around the world but I think at 37 I'm probably starting to enter that stage of your career where you don't quite have the same dominating impact that you can have or that you had when you were a little bit younger.

"I'm a fan of New Zealand cricket, now. At some point, I'll enter some commentary and coaching as well. And this year will be my last year of actually playing. I've got a couple of leagues which I've already got contracts for which I'll fulfil but then I'll look to make that transition and just sit back and watch the Black Caps play."