The Kiwi who believed in Flight
Cricket statistics can be harsh on players. Baz never truly belonged with the biggest names in cricket. But when we take a closer look, we realise that he was the first man to play 101 consecutive tests, since his debut in 2004.
In a country that is obsessed with rugby and where they truly are a fine team, the All Blacks, cricket has never been of much importance. For 80 odd years, their cricket teams with a sober nickname, the Kiwis (Kiwi is a flightless native bird) haven’t achieved anything phenomenal saving the occasional hurrahs. Richard Hadlee was a lone exception.
Brendon McCullum, the player was a great team mate. And when thrust with captaincy, he proved he was capable of great deeds. A player tailor made for T20s, he played some of the finest test knocks his country men had ever seen. Think of his 302 to save a test match against India (also the first triple century by a New Zealander) at Basin Reserve or his 134 ball 195 against Sri Lanka that blew the opposition away.
As a captain, he gave his players the room to flourish and made them believe in their abilities. Ask Kane Williamson. He also made the nicest of gestures. In the Sharjah test in late 2014, the team did not bowl a single bouncer to the opposition. Phil Hughes' tragic death on the field after being hit by a bouncer had indeed brought the cricketers closer. But, Baz was not asked to do it. He needn’t have to. Yet, he did.
As a cricketer who played with the spirit of the game foremost in his mind, he did not mince words when asked about Chris Cairns. His board trusted and stood by him.
A player's farewell test is an emotional moment. Don Bradmann got out for a duck. When quizzed at a later stage of his life, he had responded with, "It's not easy batting with tears in your eyes." Baz got an emotional farewell and an unwelcome moment - his team stuttering at 32/3. Yet again, he decided to approach his game differently. Scored a 54 ball century. 3886 centuries have been scored in Test Cricket prior to that knock and none have been faster. The test may have been lost to a better team. But in his stay at the crease, he proved that Davids could slay Goliaths if they believed.
Trivia:- for the first time in many years, the New Zealand Cricket Board had a net profit last year. Not just because of their phenomenal world cup campaign, their average match attendance was at its peak. In a rugby obsessed country, Baz made his countrymen come to the ground and support his team. Whoa! More than his 107 sixes, the most in Test Cricket, he can take pride in this fact.
Resilient. Determined. Adventurous. A jolly good fellow. The Kiwi who believed he could fly. Brendon Mc Cullum.