New Zealand news July 23, 2010

McCullum eyes opening spot in Tests

Cricinfo staff

Having relinquished wicketkeeping duties in Test cricket in order to ease the strain on his body, Brendon McCullum is looking to reinvent his role in the New Zealand side by moving up the order as an unorthodox opener in the longest format.

"I wouldn't play conventionally. There are a lot of aggressive Test openers around now. It's probably something we haven't really looked at," McCullum told the Dominion Post in Wellington. "I'm not saying it's going to work, but I'm going to give it everything I've got to try and make it work."

McCullum's ambition is not without precedent - batsmen such as Virender Sehwag, Matthew Hayden, Tillakaratne Dilshan, Chris Gayle and Tamim Iqbal have reinvented the role of an opening batsman in Test matches with their attacking intent. McCullum has been a staple at the top of the order for New Zealand in the shorter versions of the game where he is recognized as a dangerous batsman, with averages of 29.01 in ODIs and 33.33 in Twenty20s at enviable strike rates. His Test record is less impressive with 2862 runs at 34.90 in 52 matches, most of the runs coming from the number seven spot.

In recent times, the Test opening slots have been a major problem area for New Zealand, having tried 14 different batsmen at the top since 2005 without much success. They are likely to maintain the opening combination of Tim McIntosh and BJ Watling for their next assignment in Bangladesh. McCullum is not fixated on opening the batting and is confident of making an impact from the number three position too.

"One, two or three are probably the same. I don't mind where. It won't be the stock-standard blunt the ball at the top of the order. I've got to stick to my strengths and if we're totally honest it probably hasn't worked in the past, the way we've been playing. Why not try something different?"

New Zealand will be without McCullum's services during the upcoming tri-series in Sri Lanka, also involving India. He will be missing from the starting line-up after 209 successive international appearances as he recovers from a clean-up surgery on his left knee. The break coincides with the birth of his second child.

"The last time I missed a game was for the birth of my boy [Riley, in 2004]. This isn't the reason I'm missing this tour but to have a girl and have an unbroken stretch in between is pretty cool," McCullum said.