A few years ago, Brendon McCullum converted himself from a keeper and lower order batsman to a top order player in all formats. This was driven by a number of reasons, such as the T20 strategy of putting hitters at the top, and his fragile back being unable to cope with the demand of keeping through tests. Without the gloves, there was a sense he had to prove his worth and justify his place in the team, and New Zealand are known for having permanent top order problems.
Recently though he has moved back down the order in ODIs and Tests, and the change has been incredibly successful. He showed in the ODI series against England that his game is very well suited to being in the middle order, scoring three fifties, all at more than a run a ball. Death bowlers fear McCullum, as he can ruin their figures in the space of an over. There is another measurement that shows his impact on the ODI series too, that of team run rate. See the table below:
|Match||RR Before McCullum||RR During Innings||RR After Dismissal||Innings RR|
|1st ODI||4.2||6.9 (start 29.3 overs)||Not out||5.3|
|2nd ODI||3.97||11.1 (start 36 overs)||5.03 (dismissed 44.5)||5.5|
|3rd ODI||2.82||5.71 (start 22.5 overs)||All Out||4.2|
It isn’t just the numbers that are important there, as it is inevitable that a team will speed up as the innings progresses. What these three innings show is that he is capable of assessing the situation, and playing accordingly. There are 3 distinct roles displayed in these innings, finishing a chase, exploding at the death and salvaging a disastrous situation. A number 6 batsman needs to be comfortable playing within any of those situations, clearly McCullum is the right man for the job.
In tests as well he is useful down the order, as evidenced by his blistering knock in the ongoing match against England. McCullum was instrumental in turning a good lead into a great lead, and without his contribution the innings may have collapsed. It shouldn’t be ignored that four wickets went down with the second new ball, and New Zealand were in serious trouble. McCullum’s counter attack turned the momentum of the game back to his team. It wasn’t what we would normally call a captain’s knock, but it had the mark of leadership.