New Zealand v Australia, 1st Test, Wellington February 11, 2016

'The last 15-20 Tests an incredible part of my life'


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'Dirty whites, sweaty black caps and a beer in hand'

From Colin* Cowdrey back in 1968 to AB de Villiers in November last year, 63 men have reached the milestone of 100 Test appearances. None of those 63 has achieved what Brendon McCullum will achieve when he steps on to the Basin Reserve on Friday morning to take on the Australians: reaching 100 without missing a single Test. McCullum debuted against South Africa in March 2004, and has played every New Zealand Test since.

It should be noted that de Villiers would have been the first but for paternity leave last year, which prevented him from going on South Africa's two-Test tour of Bangladesh and ended his run of consecutive Tests since debut at 98. That means McCullum's accomplishment will be unique in all of Test cricket, and it will be a remarkable achievement of form, fitness and general cricketing longevity.

He has had to overcome back injuries, form slumps, the switch from keeping wicket to playing as a specialist batsman. He has taken on the responsibility of captaincy, and has with the help of coach Mike Hesson steered the team through one of its most successful periods: New Zealand have not lost a home Test series since early 2012, before McCullum and Hesson joined forces.

"The last 15 or 20 Tests have been an incredible part of my life, the changes that we've been able to make, the evolution of the environment and the performances we have started to put up," McCullum said on the eve of his milestone. "You look back with a sense of pride in what you've been able to achieve with a group of guys.

"And to be able to play 100 straight Tests as well, I'm pretty proud about the longevity and being able to overcome not only injuries and but also the toughness of touring and the ups and downs of performance, and still being able to get back up off the canvas and still warrant place in team. That's something I can look back on with a bit of pride."

That it has taken 12 years for McCullum to reach his century, despite not missing a match, is testament to how little Test cricket New Zealand play compared to some other countries - of the top eight Test countries, only Pakistan have played fewer Tests in that period than New Zealand; England have played the most, at 153.

"Andrew Strauss started after me and he has been finished for a few years, and he played 100 Tests," McCullum said. "We don't play a huge amount of cricket, which will hopefully change in the next little while for the team."

Asked to choose the highlights from his long Test career, McCullum picked out the team high of winning an away series against West Indies in 2014 - "a defining moment for us as a team" - and the personal achievement of scoring a triple-century against India at the Basin Reserve - "probably because of what it meant to those who follow this team", as well as for the way it helped define the team's fighting character going forward.

Typically self-deprecating, McCullum said he would not "go down as a great player", but rather one who made some important contributions and stayed true to his own style as a batsman. It is that laid-back style that has made him such an effective captain, instilling in his men a sense of fun that remained evident as they trained in Wellington on the eve of his final series.

"It's more the mental game which is the hardest thing - where you're doubting yourself, you're not sure whether it's going to be your last Test from a performance or selection point of view," he said. "It almost takes the pressure off you when you remind yourself that it's meant to be fun, the game. Just go out there and play it for the right reasons. Funnily enough, it's when you let go a little bit is when your performances start to improve a little bit.

"The game has always been about [what happens] in the change-room afterwards, after you've been able to earn a Test win in tough circumstances and you've been able to overcome a very good opposition. To be able to sit around and see that a group of guys have achieved something over five days, and to sit around with smiles on their faces, a bit of music going, you've got dirty whites and sweaty black caps and a beer in hand, and you're able to look back on the hard work achieved. That's what I got into the game for and that's going to be the last memory of the game as well."

At least, he hopes it will be precisely that scenario: having overcome a very good opposition.

"It would be nice tick off a series win against Australia," McCullum said. "We weren't able to do it away from home, but it would be pretty special to do it at home."

* Feb 16: 8.20am The player's first name has been corrected

Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @brydoncoverdale

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Peter on February 13, 2016, 11:09 GMT

    bugger plays like an aussie but respect from all...real gentleman sportsman the guy is a great leader who led from the front and made intentions known. for so many years, NZ was a two or one man proposition but its different now. he's made NZ from a second tier team to one that can win against anyone on their day and does consistently win !

  • Josh on February 13, 2016, 4:36 GMT

    Look at the current game, they have not evolved that much.

  • ESPN on February 13, 2016, 2:43 GMT

    His attitude will always stand him up as a fine international cricketer, deserves the admiration of all

  • Azfar on February 11, 2016, 20:41 GMT

    McCullum will go down as one of the greatest NZ captains.....he took aggressive batting in Tests to a new entertainer and a fighter.....

  • Matt on February 11, 2016, 18:51 GMT

    In my estimation, McCullum has done three things for NZ cricket, and his performance ranks as the least important. 1. He created an infectious self belief in his players that has taken all of their games to new heights. We have more players in the top ICC rankings across both disciplines and all formats than ever before. And he has created this through leading by example, with the bat, in the field, in the media, and with selections. 2. He has created the right attitude in the team. The players just aren't play great cricket but they are playing it the right way. And this has been huge in restoring the NZ public's interest in a game that was seriously waning. This has also done wonders for world cricket too, setting an example for other teams to follow. 3. Finally his performances. The last three years have been immense, but it's the lasting effect on the team and the game which are his biggest contribution. Well played Brendon and all the very best.

  •   Aayush Kataria on February 11, 2016, 18:49 GMT

    Dont think he has the greatest stats in the world but surely I believe he deserves to placed very high when we talk about players who impacted the game the most For the entertainment he gave us for the brand of cricket he promoted for making New Zeland a great team again and from an Indian perspective the start he gave to the IPL which gave it just the platform and attraction it needed.

  • Olivier on February 11, 2016, 18:48 GMT

    Why's everyone criticising the average? Played half his tests as a specialist wicketkeeper at 7 or 8 considering Cairns batted above him sometimes. 38 with a high strike rate, exceptional fielding and aggressive captaincy. What more do you need?

  • Jacob Vermeer on February 11, 2016, 18:41 GMT

    @ David -Indian you're right about his test batting could have been better, having said that hes the only NZ batman to get over 300 in an innings also got 200 twice in the same season. I think that alone makes him great at least by NZ standards.

  • Garry on February 11, 2016, 16:37 GMT

    He will go down as a great fieldsman, captain, human and if it wasn't for his back a great wicketkeeper, I would go as far as saying he would have been the best wicketkeeper ever. His statistics may not be great but if your team needed 100 off 40 balls in any format then he would be one of your first picks out of any batsman that has ever played.

  • David on February 11, 2016, 15:16 GMT

    You are wrong Baz. You will go down as one of the greatest limited over players in he history of the game and also as a great captain. Your Test batting is very good too. Though I would not call it great.

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