New Zealand in England 2013 May 4, 2013

Our ranking hurts - McCullum


If anyone thought the support act had delusions of grandeur, they can think again. There is no hubris from Brendon McCullum as his New Zealand team start their tour of England. He knows that, as captain of the team currently rated No. 8 in the Test rankings and with a record of five losses from their last six Tests in England, they are not in a position to make demands. He knows the Test series against England will be viewed, by many, as an aperitif before the Ashes. And he has no complaints.

"It hurts but it's a fair ranking," McCullum said as he watched his side in action on the first day of their tour match against Derbyshire. "You've got to earn the right for a five Test series in England, just as you've got to earn the right to play a Boxing Day Test at The MCG or to play against India at Eden Gardens. We've got to earn that right and, if we are realistic, we haven't.

"We're not one of the best powerhouses of world cricket. We're not one a consistently performing international team worthy of those occasions at this stage. That is not to say we are not wanting to be there or that is not the goal for this group. As a group we want to be playing in the top billing events and to do that we need to perform better and that is certainly a goal of this team."

McCullum feels it is an achievable goal, too. The potential in their batting, in particular, may be as high as any New Zealand team in history, while they out-bowled a much-vaunted England attack in the recent series in England. McCullum feels his side have the potential to be better even than the New Zealand side of the 1980s containing the likes of Martin Crowe and Richard Hadlee.

"It's hard to compare eras," McCullum said. "The team of the early 1980s achieved some excellent things, but these guys are excellent players and have the potential to be equal if not better than what they were."

And that's even before the return of Jesse Ryder who, barely a month after he was assaulted, is well on the road to recovery despite the lung damage inflicted in the attack. "Jesse's gone to the gym for the first time," McCullum said, before smiling. "Not the first time ever. I spoke to him before went to India and he's getting there. He's getting there."

McCullum feels the change in New Zealand's fortunes came when they were thrashed by South Africa who won both Tests in the series by vast margins - an innings and 27 runs and then an innings and 193 runs - that McCullum feels it was a clear case of the darkest hour coming before the dawn and felt the improvements were obvious in the series against England.

"South Africa gave us a chance to strip things right back," he said. "They exposed us so greatly, it meant we had to go back to the drawing board and work out what our style of cricket was going to be.

"We looked at what our strengths are and what are the tweaks we need to make. We made a few immediate changes, changed the balance of our line-up by playing six batters and having some aggressive players in the middle order so you free up your top order a little bit. We went with four bowlers, knowing three of those are going to have to bowl reasonably long spells.

"I thought we deserved to win the series against England. The guys were absolutely heartbroken by not getting across the line. But it was one of those things; it was a gripping series. From where we were at the start of that series, especially after a tough South African tour, to where we sat at the end, we could take an immense amount of pride in the characteristics that we showed on the field.

"I don't think England underestimated us. But they probably didn't expect us to play as well as we did. I don't think they were complacent. I like to think we put them under a lot of pressure and that showed some weaknesses in their line-up. It gave us confidence and probably ate away a little bit at the confidence they had when they arrived on our shores."

McCullum dismisses any chance of keeping wicket in the Test series - "absolutely not," he said - or remaining in England after the Champions Trophy to play county cricket - "No, no, no," he said, a little too effusively. "I have two months off at the end of this series and I'm going to put a bit of time and energy back into the family."

But McCullum could be forgiven some weariness. He has played in every one of New Zealand's last 75 Tests and, as a key man in their limited-overs teams, carries a heavy burden that captaincy can only have increased.

"My desire and love for the game is as strong as it has ever been," he said. "I have some responsibilities which really drive that, too. But physically, as we saw in the last series, I'm maybe not as bullet proof as what you may think when you're younger. So I have to make sure I do the right things there, too, but I'm certainly enjoying my cricket and this is an exciting time for us as a group, too, and it would be great to be a pivotal member of that over the next couple of years."

Let there be no doubting his priorities, though. Asked whether he would rather captain his side to Champions Trophy victory or a Test series victory over England, he was adamant: "To me Test cricket is still the pinnacle of the game," he said "So to achieve a Test series win on the back of the series we've just had would be the biggest win that I've been involved in my time with New Zealand cricket."

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Anupam on May 6, 2013, 11:38 GMT

    I agree with many fans about M.Sinclair in & out, but also L.Vincent, M.Horne, How, Papps, Ingram were missing completely and now some retired. Fulton come back after long period, Bruce martin's late debut. I also want to see kyle Mills on test side. He is like Jimmy, Hilfy, Asif when we talk about new ball Swing. and also NZ is having good, balanced pace bowlers but this is not good to forget Chris martin, Tuffy, Gillespie, McKay. Where is Nicol,Vettori & Jesse will they play CT'13. Why Nicol is not playing tests.

  • Joe on May 6, 2013, 11:37 GMT

    I don't understand the fuss about rankings when there's so much wrong with them. 1 is the amount of matches bottom ranked teams play compared to top teams - take Zimbabwe for example with "insufficient MATCHES" is proof enough. 106 nations play Cricket and New Zealand ranked 8th of course its something to be very proud off.

  • Anupam on May 6, 2013, 11:29 GMT

    NO captain your ranking don't hurt. The only thing that hurt is Injuries. Injuries guides soo much shuffling in the team. NZ must try their best in CT'13. NZ CUP cupboard is empty this CT is the material fill it. Even WI Cup drought since WC was empty but Sammy & Co. grab T20 WC. NZ is now looking some balance England is the perfect place just go for CT'13.

  • theodore on May 6, 2013, 1:38 GMT

    Registered member on this site for ages but never comment, But, even as diehard west indies fan i have tocomment on this article. I Enjoyed every moment from the last series.

    The most enjoyable thing about sports is when, supposedly, underdogs are punching well above their weight.

    My opinion is that, This series will overshadow the ashes if New Zealand is as good as how they played In the last one.

  • Jon on May 5, 2013, 12:14 GMT

    Fleming, Richardson, Astle, McMillan, Styris, and Cairns all retired from test cricket over a 3-4 year period and we simply never recovered. These were all key NZ batsmen and all ended their careers prematurely. Also during this time Bond and Oram's test careers were being ravaged by injury.

    This was the start of the decline. The exodus of senior players coincided with a weak domestic scene and a lack of depth. How many have we tried …15-20 openers?

    The only ray of hope during this dark time was the emergence of Taylor, Ryder and Southee, and the eventual appointment of John Wright.

    But in 2012 Wright quits, Ryder drops out, Vettori's body finally gives out, McCullum and Guptill can barely score a run between them, and we are soundly beaten in the Windies, India and South Africa.

    It's been a long, slippery slope to ranking #8.

  • Reg on May 5, 2013, 11:26 GMT

    Nathan 74 saying Ross Taylor was shifty is pretty hard to stomach. The complaint some of McCullum's NZ fans has a whil;e back is that he was too honest! As to not peforming . . . well why bother. Nathan obviously cannot read numbers so why would he understand words.

    The problem with the side that Taylor was leadig was that some of the best players were underperforming, and yes this DID include McCallum. I very well remember commments in the New Zealand media approving the change in captain, on the basis that maybe McCullum's batting might improve now he was playing for himself. And the delayed declaration in the last test in NZ did prove one thing - he was playing for himself alright!

    And a comment of Taylor's leadership - Pune haven't won a game since he led them to beat the best team in the competition on their own ground. I would listen to Uthappa before i listened to any mnore drivel from nothink Nathan

  • jared on May 5, 2013, 8:50 GMT

    Fair call Gagg you know your stats and you are right McMillan was a superior talent but you kind of missed my point, sinclair was in and out of the team like a yoyo, mostly because fleming didn't like him and every failure he could hear the selector grinding his axe, i remember McMillan going through some horror form slumps but we were feed lines like he's due a big one any minute, eventually he did and would amaze us all with an outragous innings. He was given that license because he was flemings mate, sinclair never was. My point is we can't have the same thing happen between taylor and McCullum, the best team must play wheather your friends or not

  • paul on May 5, 2013, 8:15 GMT

    Gagg the difference was that Sinclair had the threat of being axed hanging over him every game, where as McMillian new he would play next game no matter what....huge difference....and maybe you should have a quick look at who Sinclair played his tests against compared to Maca before jumping in to deep. Regarding this latest problem, we must not forget who created the issue in the first place.....cant remember it being the ex skipper ...but hey, lets just get on and play the game...the future will judge if what we have now was the right choice....I am not convinced as yet.

  • Garry on May 5, 2013, 8:01 GMT

    kiwicricketnut mate take off your tin foil hat, McMillian averaged 38 in 55 tests, Mathew Sinclair 32 and he played 33 tests, if that's not giving him a fair go then I don't know what is. McMillian was simply a better international batsman.

  • jared on May 5, 2013, 6:57 GMT

    Come on Nathan74 are you serious, get rid of our most sucessfull batsman since crowe, get real fella. I agree he has to stop sulking though, its ruiening his cricket and nobody should be immune from the selectors axe if out of form, its up to McCullum and Hesson to create a winning and inclusive culture for every player, for too long the black caps have been an old boys club and if you wern't one of the cool kids and you had a bad game you were down the road, the likes of sinclair could vouch for that but if you were one of the cool kids you could fail all you want and keep getting picked, just ask McMillan that. Get rid of this looking after your mates at all costs attitude and just play the best team and Nathan74 that includes Taylor

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