Smash or crash -- the McCullum way

Christchurch (New Zealand) (AFP) –


The cap may be tattered but the legacy Brendon McCullum will leave when he calls it quits is of glowing success, destructive batting, record-setting innings and reshaping the game.

McCullum ends his glorious career after the second Test against Australia starting in Christchurch on Saturday.

He doubts he will go down as one of cricket's greats and, taken in isolation, his batting average of a shade more than 38.00 after 101 Tests suggests he may be right.

But the 34-year-old has never been just a batsman, nor just a wicketkeeper-batsman in his early days.

Whenever he strode to the middle there was an expectant murmur in the crowd and doubt among the bowlers.

"I'll never go down as a great player but I played a role in the team, made some contributions," is how McCullum sees himself.

"I've been pretty strong about how I've gone about the style of cricket which I've tried to play throughout my career."

Just as he has never changed his Test cap since it was presented to him on the eve of his first Test in 2004, he has never changed his attack-at-all-cost batting approach.

"That can have its knockers as well and at the same time it can change a game too, so that's one thing I'll look back on fondly as I was able to maintain that even through times which were slightly averse," McCullum said.

- Joy of sixes -

That black cap, by his own admission, "is rancid" after years of use but the brutality of his batting has gone from strength to strength particularly after he took over as captain in 2012, since when had averaged 45 in Tests.

His long list of achievements include becoming the second player, after West Indian Chris Gayle, to score a Twenty20 international century. In total, he has 11 Test centuries, five in ODIs and two in Twenty20s.

Perhaps his best year was 2014, which included scores of 302, two double centuries and a 195, averaging more than 72 per innings, better than Kumar Sangakkara, Angelo Mathews, Younis Khan and David Warner.

He is the only player to have hit 200 sixes in ODIs and 100 in Tests and ahead of his final international, shares the world Test record for sixes with Adam Gilchrist.

Many consider the dogged and Test-saving 302 his most memorable innings, with his knock coming when New Zealand trailed India by 246 on the first innings and were 94 for 5 in the second.

- Big turnaround -

It was the first triple-hundred by a New Zealander and the near 13 hours in the middle proved he could graft when he had to.

When the popular Ross Taylor was replaced by McCullum as captain during a tour of Sri Lanka in 2012 it caused an uproar in New Zealand.

And on the subsequent tour to South Africa New Zealand slumped to an embarrassing 45 all out in the first innings of the first Test.

That failure, McCullum recalls, was the beginning of a new determination in a side where the captain instilled a need for players to want to hold their heads high.

In partnership with coach Mike Hesson, he lifted his and the team's image and turned the New Zealand team to that of a popular side that played entertaining and aggressive cricket.

New Zealand have lost only eight of 26 Tests since.

"The evolution of the environment and the performances we have started to put up" rate highly with McCullum who feels he can look back a "with sense of pride" in what he has achieved, particularly the camaraderie.

"Even after a loss it’s a special place to be," he said of the New Zealand dressing room.

Last year, New Zealand reached the World Cup final for the first time and with a performance that was typical McCullum.

He plied his "smash or crash" approach with the smash coming off with brutal regularity until the final where he crashed on the third ball and, without their talismanic skipper, New Zealand crumpled.

McCullum goes into his final Test as New Zealand's second-highest run-scorer with 6,283 behind Stephen Fleming (7,172), third on New Zealand's ODI batting list behind Fleming and Nathan Astle with 6,083 and topping the Twenty20 list with 2,140 runs.