World Cup 2015: New Zealand March 10, 2015

Never played under captain like Brendon - Hadlee

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Richard Hadlee: "I had some good captains, but Brendon is something a little bit special at the moment." © ICC

New Zealand have been playing it cool over recent weeks. They have known they are heavily fancied for the World Cup, as strongly as the nation has ever been, but while embracing the benefits of a home tournament they have been keen to try and keep a lid on the emotions.

Shortly, that lid could well be ripped off. Not against Bangladesh in Hamilton, but come a week on Saturday in Wellington. In a way, the cat is already out of the bag.

In his post-match press conference following the Afghanistan match in Napier, Daniel Vettori referenced "the biggest match of our careers" when throwing ahead to the quarter-final. And on Tuesday, the cricket team and the All Blacks were linked in the same question to Trent Boult, which led him to say: "I've never been compared to an All Black."

When the two sports are mentioned in the same breath you know something is brewing.

At the head of all this - and one of the men who will need to marshal the New Zealand players through the quarter-final and, the nation hopes, two further matches - is Brendon McCullum. He has certainly not been cowered by the demands of the last few weeks. If anything they have emboldened him to find new levels of aggression both in his captaincy and batting.

His 42 off 19 balls against Afghanistan was not the most significant innings in the tournament, but it meant he was the first batsman to make three consecutive scores over 40 at a strike-rate of 200-plus following his displays against England and Australia. In the field, he has almost created a new brand with his all-out attacking approach: the McCullum way.

He is the most talked about sportsman in New Zealand at the moment and there is no shortage of plaudits coming his way. In these pages recently he was labelled an "honorary Aussie" by Ashley Mallett. The latest praise came from two of New Zealand's finest ever players: Stephen Fleming, an outstanding leader himself, and the country's greatest cricketer, Sir Richard Hadlee.

"It's fair to say, that in my career of 18 years through the 1970s and the 1980s, I didn't play under a captain as aggressive as Brendon," Hadlee said. "I had some good captains, but Brendon is something a little bit special at the moment."

Hadlee, taking the bowlers' view, pinpointed McCullum in the field and the utmost belief he has in his tactics and team-mates.

"When you're aggressive and proactive, it can be high risk, it can backfire. At this stage it hasn't," Hadlee said. "But, what he is saying to his bowlers, and if I had a captain like that what he would be saying to me is, I back you. I'll give you the field that you need to get wickets, and do the job. That would've been nice in my time, although it didn't happen."

Fleming, who led New Zealand 303 times across all formats from 1997 to 2007, argued that McCullum has been central to the evolution of the one-day game which is increasingly rewarding the pursuit of wickets ahead of containment.

"Those rave reviews are right. I think over two years he's helped built a brand of cricket that is aggressive, and in some ways it's creating the new way to play the ODI game," Fleming, who retains strong links with McCullum through Chennai Super Kings, said. "You're now seeing Michael Clarke, also an excellent captain, do the same. And Dhoni as well, he's had the bowlers to do it. It's one thing to have that style, number two create a team that can back it up, and that's what I think Brendon's got. But it's taken a while in the making, but I think you can see the fruits of it."

McCullum has won 55% of his ODIs as captain (26 out of 47), compared to 45% for Fleming, although the sample size is much smaller as the latter led in 218 games. As a further example, Martin Crowe won 48% of his 44 ODIs as captain. If he leads a victorious World Cup campaign, McCullum will be forever revered.

"He's a naturally aggressive guy, a gambler as well, but I think he's better than that," Fleming said. "I think it's just an aggressive outlook where we want to hit every ball for six, and it's obviously contagious. You've got guys who can get up, whereas in the past we've been a little bit conservative. But now we're seeing a team that's ready to bleed runs to get wickets and that seems to be the way that the best teams are playing now."

Greatness is Contagious is one of the sayings plastered on posters promoting the tournament. So too, it seems, is the McCullum way.

Andrew McGlashan is a senior assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • subhasish on March 12, 2015, 3:34 GMT

    i think aus will be the winner at the end of the world cup i think they settle their line up every one in from and also they play in their home i think aus will win the cup

  • Jav on March 11, 2015, 13:31 GMT

    Hope India meets NZ in SF !

  • Peter on March 11, 2015, 9:07 GMT

    If he gets out in five or ten overs then NZ have issues, if he bats 20 plus overs then likely winner Same with SA and AB as per SL and Sanga But hell ya.... he's given Kiwis some substance as a team instead of the occasional talented individual in a second tier team. He's almost Australian in his approach.

  • kyronxavier12 on March 11, 2015, 7:44 GMT

    Kiwis keep doing what you've been doing...it's got you this far and any change now would be detrimental to your campaign...most exciting cricket team in the world without the so called 'rock stars' of the game. Dream Big

  • Utsab on March 11, 2015, 6:38 GMT

    Love the BlackCaps as I may, I have a rather abysmal feeling that at the knockout they may run out of steam at some point. One tricky match and the fairy tale is over. Though, I wish very much that it isn't. Go Kiwis... If you can, you MUST!!!

  • Dummy4 on March 11, 2015, 3:17 GMT

    I am also strong believer of NZ team that it has potential to win 2015 WC. it has excellent bowling and batting. My only concern is MCG may not support swing bowling and I am curious how this bowling unit respond.

  • Dummy4 on March 11, 2015, 2:40 GMT

    NZ and SL world cup prospects is forever intertwined. We will meet again for the 3rd time in semi-finals. NZ has been winning everything lately. Loosing one match is right around the corner.

  • Dummy on March 11, 2015, 1:17 GMT

    New Zealand has the best chance to win this WC. I personally believe that new Zealand fully deserve to win this one.

  • Dummy4 on March 11, 2015, 0:31 GMT

    macullum will win the world cup 2015: KSRao

  • Dummy4 on March 11, 2015, 0:17 GMT

    India to ake sure they don't meet NZ before the finals. Rig if needed to avoid NZ. They are that good now !!!!

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