February 13, 2016

Baz and I

It wasn't the easiest thing in the world being in the same team as Brendon McCullum

"Now you want to share space with me in the wickets column as well, I suppose?" © Getty Images

This was supposed to be about Brendon McCullum: the Brendon McCullum I know.

Well, you know what, I've written and talked so much about McCullum that this is going to be about me. I've had enough of Brendon, BMac, Mac, Macca, Baz, or whatever else you or I call him.

He can take his chalk-like back, his over-tightened hamstrings, his gnarled, bent and busted fingers, his sleeve tattoos, his gymnastic physique, his good looks, his well-articulated pre- and post-match views, and move over. This is about me.

Baz, you can take those quiet words of advice out in the middle during the battle, take the quiet hotel-bar conversations (where I might have just listened to you lot all talking, soaking it all in), and you can take all the net sessions where I feed your ego and let you pummel me to all parts. I'm sick of it. It's my time.

Remember Adelaide in 2008, Brendon? I said I'd take the spinner, I'll shoulder the burden, and you can take the quicks. Can you remember that?

"Baz, I'll deal with [Nathan] Hauritz. It's okay. I'll hide you from him. You take [Brett] Lee and [Mitchell] Johnson from the other end."

"No, seriously, mate, it's okay, Hauritz is flying, he's just got Dan [Vettori] and Tim [Southee] out, I'll blunt him. You just hang about at the other end with me."

Can you remember this, Baz?

You oozed all the characteristics I wanted, did all the things I wanted to be able to be and do, and you appeared to not even have to try

We put on 50 for the ninth wicket. It was great that you hung about with me.

Can you remember when Lee put me on my backside with a bouncer? And he then proceeded to wander down and tell me he was going to - well, you know what he said.

I didn't see you on your backside. I didn't see your batting whites, pads and gloves covered in red dust. You sat at the other end and showboated, run a ball, 43 of the 50-run partnership (the other 7 were extras). You reached another milestone, another fifty for you. Did I complain that I got a 54-minute duck (and might I add, I nicked it and was give out lbw)? Nope. It was all about your runs in our partnership.

I'm sick of it. All about bloody you.

You were even there for five of my six debuts. My first-class and List A debuts, you were in the opposition. My Test, ODI and T20I debuts, you were there alongside. You're there all the time. This is about me, not you.

The only debut you weren't there for was my first domestic T20 outing. The first time we came across each other in T20s, you didn't last too long, did ya, Brendon? Just three balls from me and a top edge, caught, thanks.

A footie genius, no doubt © Getty Images

I remember breaking one of your fingers. A cold day at the Basin. A Test match. We were hosting the Bangladeshis. You were keeping and the ball was wobbling all over the place - that horrible wobble that happens after the ball is past the stumps. I was bowling quick, feeling great. I let one go, pitched a good length, bounced tall, past the edge, and wobbled through to you. Smashed into the end of one of your fingers and did some damage. You weren't even man enough to tell me - you just kept quiet and soldiered on. Didn't even make a fuss. Just gritted your teeth and got on with it. I didn't get any credit for it. All about you.

I watched you and how you went about your business. You oozed all the characteristics I wanted, did all the things I wanted to be able to be and do, and you appeared to not even have to try. If you wanted to learn a new shot, you'd go away, you'd come back and you'd have it. No doubt you probably worked your bollocks off behind closed doors, worked tirelessly until you had it sorted. That was fine for you. Pfft, all about you.

I was just trying to be good enough to keep my place. I was fretting over my position in the team. Can you remember sitting in the hotel bar in Nottingham, just after we had been beaten at Old Trafford and had driven across? I'd gone okay, busted my back bowling into that horrible wind, spent all my energy, and in a low moment was worried about maybe not playing the next Test, so I asked for your opinion. What kind of assurance, what kind of a message from a senior player was "Take it out of their hands. Make sure they can't drop you"?

I mean that's really great advice, but what about me? I wanted you to tell me, "Nah, you did really good in that last Test, your spot is safe." It was all about you and you being all knowable and smart, being all prophetic. I just wanted some ego-boosting. Nope, all about you and the wisdom you just had to share.

You know those double-hundreds, and that triple, Baz? Where was that when I was still playing? You've left me feeling horribly jealous of the guys who got to share those moments, those celebrations, with you

Sometimes as a radio commentator you have to do a whole T20 by yourself. No other voice. There was a case like this last summer, at Edgbaston, Birmingham. All about me, for once. The whole BBC broadcast and just my voice. A chance to really own a broadcast, make it mine, showcase my talents. And guess what? Brendon Bloody McCullum makes it all about himself, again. He goes and equals his own previous best T20 score of 158.

One hundred and fifty bloody eight. From just 64 balls. The highest score in the competition ever, and second best ever in all T20 history. Eleven bloody sixes and 13 damned fours. How is one person supposed to find enough words, have a vast enough lexicon, to describe that? Yeah, thanks for that Brendon. All about you. Again.

And one more, while I'm here. You went and allowed the New Zealand team to just play. You went and gave them the freedom to play without fear. The way you had made a name for yourself. You didn't mould them into a squad of mini Bazes, you made them into better versions of themselves. How unselfish can you be? You went and shared all your experience, your ideas, and your feelings, and turned the team into almost world champions.

Oh, wait. Hold on. Damn, you've done it again. I've gone and made this all about you.

And you know what, it should be.

What a player. What a guy. What a privilege it was to have shared memories with you and for you to have had an influence on my career.

One thing I am disappointed about, though - you know those double-hundreds, and that triple, Baz? Where was that when I was still playing? You've left me feeling horribly jealous of the guys who got to share those moments, those celebrations, with you. I would have happily got a bottle of Sauv at the bar and had a glass and a half with you.

You did leave me with one of the funniest things I've ever seen on a cricket park, though. Remember Daren Powell bowling to you - well, not quite bowling to you - in Napier? Oh, how we laughed…

Former New Zealand fast bowler Iain O'Brien played 22 Tests in the second half of the 2000s

Comments