New Zealand v India, 2nd Test, Wellington, 4th day February 17, 2014

McCullum battles, and triumphs over, his essence

For a batsman whose game is built on brutality, Brendon McCullum's double-hundred against India has been an essay in renunciation and grit

You are your biggest enemy. You are also your biggest friend. And when you have won the battle with yourself, there is little that can stop you.

Brendon McCullum is a man whose batting has been built around the belief that cricket balls are flies to be swatted away with disproportionate brutality. For nearly two days at the Basin Reserve, he has battled this belief. He has battled what he has stood for, and what the world has known him for. He has overcome his own essence.

What it must have cost the man we will never be able to tell. For how many of us can say we have militated against our own nature and succeeded?

In overcoming his mind, he has also had to fight his creaking body, battered so much over his career that it is much older than his 32 years. He makes double-centuries, comes back to field at cover, chases balls like a terrier and dives into advertising boards at the boundary, without a care, to save a single run.

After the day's play, McCullum said that he had scraped through the final hour in a daze. Had he not told us, we would never have known. For McCullum would not let us in on the pain and self-denial while batting. Yes, he had taken treatment for his back during the day, and also had a sore shoulder. BJ Watling said his captain was carrying plenty of niggles. From the outside, however, all you could see was a captain, on 277, running hard in his twelfth hour of batting for a third run from Jimmy Neesham's bat.

Over those 12 hours, McCullum had taken denial to another level.

Sachin Tendulkar rightfully got the accolades for putting away the cover drive during his unbeaten double-hundred in Sydney in 2004. Tendulkar knew he had been getting out to that stroke, and just excluded that particular risk over a long innings.

McCullum's entire game is risky. And he rightfully gets flak for often throwing it away needlessly in trying to beat the ball to pulp. At times, the flak is uncharitable. As McCullum has gone about losing every toss this series, some have said he is not even doing the only thing he can be expected to do.

Forget the detractors, even his staunchest supporters would not have expected this kind of innings from McCullum. The Auckland double was different. India helpfully lost their lines and lengths after having New Zealand 30 for 3 and McCullum is not one to let short and wide go unpunished.

India were not giving an inch this time. Those two dropped chances will be forever associated with this innings, but had they not happened, the world would have never discovered that McCullum was capable of such renunciation for so long. There was little else.

The Indians wanted him to play strokes, as would any side. He was tempted. He was squeezed. He was set conventional and unconventional fields. He did not yield. There were plays-and-misses, you would be beaten a few times if you batted for 726 minutes. But they were the exceptions, against the run of play. He did indulge himself, and the strokes became more frequent after the first few hours, but he was never reckless.

This wasn't the McCullum we have known, resisting by attacking as hard as he can. This was a captain missing his best batsman, having lost half his side and still needing 153 to make the opposition bat again. This was a captain who did not want to let his side's glorious summer be scarred by a meltdown in the final game.

This was a captain prepared to do anything, even rebel against his own character as a batsman.

How many times must he have felt like having a whack at the spinner. How many times must he have felt like letting himself have one, just one, heave against the quicks. But the image that stays behind is of McCullum jerking his bat skywards to let one more pass outside off. Of jumping across, getting behind the line of another lifter and dead-batting it.

Virender Sehwag, a batsman similar in intent to McCullum, made two Test triple hundreds staying true to his aggression. Imagine Sehwag restraining himself to a triple. History will, of course, accord McCullum's innings the place it deserves. It is perhaps no coincidence that he ended the day unbeaten on 281, a number that - thanks to VVS Laxman - is forever associated with the impossible being achieved on a cricket field.

Abhishek Purohit is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on February 18, 2014, 4:16 GMT

    Dear friends, any cricket playing country desperate to win matches, call Indian team and win all series with clean sweep, be it test series, one day series or 20-20 series. Go fast. start booking immediately.

  • A.J on February 18, 2014, 3:21 GMT

    As an Australian first and cricket fan second, I still can't help but think this is one of the best, if not the best innings I have ever seen. NZ were 100/5 staring down what I thought was an inevitable defeat, but what an innings. Maybe he really is turning a corner and if so, the kiwis will rise in those rankings.

    Anderson has done little to show that he is a test cricketer, Rutherford looks way out of his depth and Fulton is just a walking wicket.

    Honestly, if you're intent on playing a dasher opener, play Ryder and bring in Guptill. Those two are your best combination.

    Why hasn't Munro been picked, he is the best batsmen in NZ's domestic competition?

    Sit out Wagner and Anderson and bring in Munro and Henry, the best bat and ball from the domestic comp.

    Anderson is a good one day player, potentially the best, but not a test player yet by any stats, measure or proof.

    Munro averages nearly 47 in domestic comp, doesn't that deserve a shot?

    If not, then why?

  • Peter on February 18, 2014, 3:21 GMT

    Don't worry dudes,MSD and BCCI knows about poor indian fans are just shown their feeling later once IPL start everyone forget this things so that we may expect samething will happened for few years but don't forget MSD will be made world record for Capatain of more test loss!

  • Kabeer on February 18, 2014, 3:11 GMT

    I believe Mccullum is not good as a player to get a double hundred in Test Matches but he has got one double and a triple hundred in this series and believe me he won't get a double hundred or even 150+ after this. Nowadays games get fixed easily so Indian team are dropping catches so that New Zealand stakes go up. I often see team losing from winning position or get a draw if playing test matches. England lost it when they require 20 out of 16 balls in Champions Trophy. Faulkner made 30 off Ishant over to get a win for Australia. And In match between South Africa and Pakistan, South Africa lost it when they only require 34 out of 36 deliveries and in the same way when New Zealand arrived in India in 2012 when India need 40 runs out of 36 balls and with 8 wickets remaining and we have Yuvraj and Dhoni on crease they lost it by 1 run from that position. Earlier any team finish the match with overs to spare India extend the match to last ball so that people bet high on India and to lose

  • Anupam on February 18, 2014, 3:02 GMT

    Always been a fan of Brendon McCullum. He's a special player. But him playing such gems against us.. :( Being an Indian, still somehow i am feeling a bit happy that he got a Triple hundred.

  • Narsing on February 18, 2014, 2:01 GMT

    Ah, I forgot to add one key comment to my previous one regarding the support of expats. Come 2015, I'd be happy to support dear, dear Ireland or the Kiwis!

  • Dummy4 on February 18, 2014, 1:58 GMT

    This is a wicked article. It really captures what is so amazing about the innings McCullum played. Everyone New Zealand fan knows McCullum has the potential to destroy anything. He plays some of the most sublime shots, and at the same time can do some of the most unbelievably painful things when a game sits in the balance, or patience is needed.

    But the length of this innings was just astounding. Like Ross Taylor has done away with cow corner and focussed on playing in the V (and his performances while not as brutal have improved dramatically), it was simply just lovely to watch a man we all associate with brutality shelve everything that makes us both love and hate him, and carry his team towards avoiding what was a certain loss.


  • Justin on February 18, 2014, 1:39 GMT

    A truly amazing performance by McCullum in making 302 and becoming the first Kiwi to make a Test triple ton. Of course he was dropped on 9 by Kohli so it goes down as one of the most expensive dropped catches in the history of Test Cricket. That chance along with Murali Vijay's drop of Kane Williamson in the first innings of the 1st Test turned a 2-0 series victory to India into a 0-1 series loss. Both chances were straightforward and should have been taken at grade cricket level yet alone international level, but that's life. India have had their chances both in South Africa and New Zealand and they've failed to take them. The England and Australia series give them a chance for redemption, but will their fielding be up to it?

  • Dummy4 on February 18, 2014, 1:16 GMT

    Wonderful innings!!! McCullum proved by example to be a great leader. When NZ were 94 for 5, India had a golden chance to rip them off. When they lost their best batsman, having lost half their side and still needing 153 to make India bat again, it was McCullum who as a captain, battled for over 160 overs for the sixth wicket partnership of 352 runs with Watling to take the score to 446 for 6. In his 726 minutes of batting, McCullum scored 302 runs in 559 balls with 32 fours and 4 sixes, with an avg of 54.02 ------------------------------------On Day 5 - Score: New Zealand 192 and 680 for 8 declared; India 438 and 20 for 2 (9 overs, target: 435)

  • Morgan on February 18, 2014, 1:04 GMT

    Gread read Mr Purohit. I think a little artistic licence has been taken as I recall Bmac squirting from 50 to 100 runs at a run a ball and getting there wth a 6! I certainly agree with the thrust of your article though.

    Fantastic knock from McCullum and most likely a very fitting end to a great summers cricket from the NZ team.

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