New Zealand news July 23, 2010

McCullum eyes opening spot in Tests

Cricinfo staff
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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.

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • POSTED BY DazzKeagsz on | July 30, 2010, 19:50 GMT

    I'm really not liking this whole form of thinking. McCullum is not a great test player. He never has been, but to me he has always been the best keeper in the world. I just think that if he stays in the middle order when he can keep, he is taking up an extra position which is unjustified, and likewise if he goes up the top of the order. A guy like Kane Williamson who has a load more talent with the bat should be batting at 3, and BJ Watling and McIntosh have been doing a decent enough job up the top.

    While McCullum may have the right incentive of how NZ could possibly go at the top of the order, he doesn't come close to the skill, talent or technique of the likes of Sehwag, Gayle or Dilshan. While each of these players are aggressive, they still have good technique for the job at hand. McCullum has never had technique, and it's suited to the shorter format, but not Test and especially not against the new ball.

  • POSTED BY Freeeeee on | July 25, 2010, 12:06 GMT

    @ rickdolby : first stop abusing a whole country for one man's mistake. Tell me a team who's been winnin 2 test togeather in foriegn soil at present.. you can't.. because no teams winning.. just for abusing you are taking a whole country apart is nothing but arrogant..

  • POSTED BY mike5181 on | July 25, 2010, 10:44 GMT

    New Zealand has some very talented batsmen with Rhyder Taylor McCullem Guptill Williamson. They all have the potential to become truly world class batsmen in all forms of the game but sadly only Taylor is establishing himself as a good player. Id say in six months time New Zealand will have a very good batting side and a average bowling side.

  • POSTED BY on | July 25, 2010, 3:07 GMT

    u ca\n.......u r fantastics.........go for it.........

  • POSTED BY Maestro_of_Cricket on | July 24, 2010, 16:37 GMT

    Totally agree there with rickdolby. But coming to the point, I don't think this is such a good idea. Batsmen going out attacking at the top in Tests doesn't make much of an impact on the match if they don't go on for a three figure score; which McCullum obviously won't do. So he'd better stay back at the middle order WITH the gloves or retire from Tests giving Watling the chance. NZ is not short of Test openers, Mr.McCullum.

  • POSTED BY jkumara on | July 24, 2010, 16:02 GMT

    How did you miss Sanath Jayasuriya? He was the inventor of agressive opening of the innings in ODIs and Tests....

  • POSTED BY kalinga_dis on | July 24, 2010, 12:17 GMT

    @Gupta.Ankur..stating that dilshan and mccullum are sloggers is extremely ridiculous.....better improve ur cricketing knowledge before making such a statement......they might not be successful to sehwags extent bt dilshan is defnitely not a slogger....he plays in his own unique way bt dat doesnt make him a slogger..i wud put both the intent of the players sehwag and dilshan into one category bt the former has better hand eye coordination which makes him a better player...footwork wise i wont both of dem anyway close to tendulkar or a sangakkara...

  • POSTED BY rickdolby on | July 24, 2010, 1:56 GMT

    sick of reading comments from one eyes indian fans on this site with articles that have nothing to do with your team always rubbishing teams players and talking up your own, you have a country twice the size of all the cricketing nations combined times alot and its embarrassing that you can hardly string a few wins 2getha outside your country with the amount of players you have to pick from.

  • POSTED BY Rag-Aaron on | July 23, 2010, 21:13 GMT

    I should be doubtful about this but that century Baz scored against Australia last year showed a lot of guts and self discipline. Good luck to him

  • POSTED BY on | July 23, 2010, 20:55 GMT

    @Gupta.Ankur: Try to contain your arrogance. Sure India have a great team, but there'd be no game without opposition so please maintain at least a basic level of respect.

    Back to the discussion at hand. I'd have to agree with @mnemoniny's comments. In test cricket you've got to earn periods of batting dominance through soaking up pressure at the beginning and end of each session. If all the batsmen can suck it up and do that - then bigger scores are in store for NZ.

  • POSTED BY DazzKeagsz on | July 30, 2010, 19:50 GMT

    I'm really not liking this whole form of thinking. McCullum is not a great test player. He never has been, but to me he has always been the best keeper in the world. I just think that if he stays in the middle order when he can keep, he is taking up an extra position which is unjustified, and likewise if he goes up the top of the order. A guy like Kane Williamson who has a load more talent with the bat should be batting at 3, and BJ Watling and McIntosh have been doing a decent enough job up the top.

    While McCullum may have the right incentive of how NZ could possibly go at the top of the order, he doesn't come close to the skill, talent or technique of the likes of Sehwag, Gayle or Dilshan. While each of these players are aggressive, they still have good technique for the job at hand. McCullum has never had technique, and it's suited to the shorter format, but not Test and especially not against the new ball.

  • POSTED BY Freeeeee on | July 25, 2010, 12:06 GMT

    @ rickdolby : first stop abusing a whole country for one man's mistake. Tell me a team who's been winnin 2 test togeather in foriegn soil at present.. you can't.. because no teams winning.. just for abusing you are taking a whole country apart is nothing but arrogant..

  • POSTED BY mike5181 on | July 25, 2010, 10:44 GMT

    New Zealand has some very talented batsmen with Rhyder Taylor McCullem Guptill Williamson. They all have the potential to become truly world class batsmen in all forms of the game but sadly only Taylor is establishing himself as a good player. Id say in six months time New Zealand will have a very good batting side and a average bowling side.

  • POSTED BY on | July 25, 2010, 3:07 GMT

    u ca\n.......u r fantastics.........go for it.........

  • POSTED BY Maestro_of_Cricket on | July 24, 2010, 16:37 GMT

    Totally agree there with rickdolby. But coming to the point, I don't think this is such a good idea. Batsmen going out attacking at the top in Tests doesn't make much of an impact on the match if they don't go on for a three figure score; which McCullum obviously won't do. So he'd better stay back at the middle order WITH the gloves or retire from Tests giving Watling the chance. NZ is not short of Test openers, Mr.McCullum.

  • POSTED BY jkumara on | July 24, 2010, 16:02 GMT

    How did you miss Sanath Jayasuriya? He was the inventor of agressive opening of the innings in ODIs and Tests....

  • POSTED BY kalinga_dis on | July 24, 2010, 12:17 GMT

    @Gupta.Ankur..stating that dilshan and mccullum are sloggers is extremely ridiculous.....better improve ur cricketing knowledge before making such a statement......they might not be successful to sehwags extent bt dilshan is defnitely not a slogger....he plays in his own unique way bt dat doesnt make him a slogger..i wud put both the intent of the players sehwag and dilshan into one category bt the former has better hand eye coordination which makes him a better player...footwork wise i wont both of dem anyway close to tendulkar or a sangakkara...

  • POSTED BY rickdolby on | July 24, 2010, 1:56 GMT

    sick of reading comments from one eyes indian fans on this site with articles that have nothing to do with your team always rubbishing teams players and talking up your own, you have a country twice the size of all the cricketing nations combined times alot and its embarrassing that you can hardly string a few wins 2getha outside your country with the amount of players you have to pick from.

  • POSTED BY Rag-Aaron on | July 23, 2010, 21:13 GMT

    I should be doubtful about this but that century Baz scored against Australia last year showed a lot of guts and self discipline. Good luck to him

  • POSTED BY on | July 23, 2010, 20:55 GMT

    @Gupta.Ankur: Try to contain your arrogance. Sure India have a great team, but there'd be no game without opposition so please maintain at least a basic level of respect.

    Back to the discussion at hand. I'd have to agree with @mnemoniny's comments. In test cricket you've got to earn periods of batting dominance through soaking up pressure at the beginning and end of each session. If all the batsmen can suck it up and do that - then bigger scores are in store for NZ.

  • POSTED BY vish1036 on | July 23, 2010, 19:25 GMT

    he wont last...the guys u compared him to are much better than him and to a certain extent gayle and dilshan have watered down their style a bit to suit tests....an average of 34 isnt great batting at 7 when the ball is old...opening he will have to face genuine fast bowlers with a new ball, bowlers like asif and steyn would dismantle him...i say stay in the middle order even if he gives up the gloves

  • POSTED BY manasvi_lingam on | July 23, 2010, 17:52 GMT

    The only opening batsman who was proven to be effective while being extremely aggressive is Sehwag and to a lesser extent Dilshan. Chris Gayle has an average of less than 40 when Bangladesh and Zimbabwe are excluded. Furthermore he has an average of 27 in the subcontinent reflecting his weakness against spin. Others like Watson are also makeshift openers who simply haven't shown the capacity to make 100s. Hundreds and 150s and 200s win matches most of the times not 30s and 40s. I feel that McCullum would be at his most effective at 5 or 6 where he can bat reasonably high-up and yet stay away from the new ball. Test team: Ryder, McIntosh, Taylor, Guptil, Williamson, McCullum, wk, Vettori, Southee, Tuffey, Martin/McKay

  • POSTED BY on | July 23, 2010, 16:38 GMT

    I think its just as well he's missing this tour... he might struggle to get any place as a specialist batsman.

  • POSTED BY NanoTechnology on | July 23, 2010, 13:26 GMT

    Well, if he's going to give up the gloves, good luck with the batting. There's been sillier ideas than McCullum opening, although our lower middle order hasn't been the same since he started opening in ODIs. However in test matches by the time it gets down to number seven we usually don't have many runs, and so he can't play with his natural freedom. Not everyone can be Adam Gilchrist, that is, attacking no matter the situation. At the top of the order, even if he falls cheaply, it's not like its any different from how things are now. Good luck sir.

  • POSTED BY Gupta.Ankur on | July 23, 2010, 13:15 GMT

    i can't believe @shashankvaish has put sehwag& gayle in that list with sloggers like dilshan and mccullum...

    with the kind of talent pool NZ have even harbhajan could open for them.......

  • POSTED BY mnemoniny on | July 23, 2010, 13:08 GMT

    Has everyone forgotten the clear evidence, offered up on our television screens every summer, that McCullum has precisely zero ability to play to the situation? "Attacking starts" will probably amount to flashy 30s off between 20 and 40 balls. His conversion rate will not improve until he grows a cricket brain to match his apparent skill with the blade of willow. If good bowling attacks are rattled at all by surprise aggression at the top of the Test order (hint: they won't be), then they will regroup quick enough to blow away an infirm batting line up. Brendon, mate, you're not going to run out of overs.

    To put the second coming of Gilchrist (oh yes, the two have been compared) in perspective, average of 30.32 with Bangladesh, West Indies and Zimbabwe removed from the numbers, average of 27.64 playing outside NZ.

    The bottom line is, Brendon, my countryman, that you can afford to slow down a bit across all three formats. Batsmen generally do that when out of form.

  • POSTED BY Haussen on | July 23, 2010, 12:05 GMT

    He might as well open with Vettori

  • POSTED BY mike5181 on | July 23, 2010, 11:45 GMT

    We might aswel give him a go up the order its not like the openers are scoring runs. 1. Macintosh 2. Watling 3. McCullem 4.Taylor 5. Williamson 6. Guptill 7. Vettori 8. Elliot 9. Mills 10. Southee 11. Mckay. Just give the gloves to watling we dont want to waste a player slot. It will be good when Neil Wagner becomes eligible aswel we seriously need some bowlers.

  • POSTED BY on | July 23, 2010, 11:17 GMT

    I think baz can revolutionaize nz's top order and give them great stars.

  • POSTED BY jmey97 on | July 23, 2010, 9:20 GMT

    McCullum thinks too much of himself, he thiks he can do whatever he wants and still. PUT THE GLOVES BACK ON AND GET BACK IN YOUR PLACE!!!!!!!!!!

  • POSTED BY shashankvaish on | July 23, 2010, 8:28 GMT

    he would be superb....he is actually wasted in the late middle order....with guys like sehwag ,watson ,dilshan ,gayle he also has the potential to attack n give his team a gud platorm

  • POSTED BY on | July 23, 2010, 8:25 GMT

    Brendon will make a good job of opening the test innings, aslong as he plays his natural game. If he tries to play defensively, he will fail. I also think if he fails as a specialist batsman in tests and is dropped, McCullum will probably go down 1 of these two paths; Retire from international cricket and become a Twenty20 specialist or Put the gloves back on in test matches to add another string to his bow. New Zealand will struggle to find a keeper batsman of McCullums calibre.

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  • POSTED BY on | July 23, 2010, 8:25 GMT

    Brendon will make a good job of opening the test innings, aslong as he plays his natural game. If he tries to play defensively, he will fail. I also think if he fails as a specialist batsman in tests and is dropped, McCullum will probably go down 1 of these two paths; Retire from international cricket and become a Twenty20 specialist or Put the gloves back on in test matches to add another string to his bow. New Zealand will struggle to find a keeper batsman of McCullums calibre.

  • POSTED BY shashankvaish on | July 23, 2010, 8:28 GMT

    he would be superb....he is actually wasted in the late middle order....with guys like sehwag ,watson ,dilshan ,gayle he also has the potential to attack n give his team a gud platorm

  • POSTED BY jmey97 on | July 23, 2010, 9:20 GMT

    McCullum thinks too much of himself, he thiks he can do whatever he wants and still. PUT THE GLOVES BACK ON AND GET BACK IN YOUR PLACE!!!!!!!!!!

  • POSTED BY on | July 23, 2010, 11:17 GMT

    I think baz can revolutionaize nz's top order and give them great stars.

  • POSTED BY mike5181 on | July 23, 2010, 11:45 GMT

    We might aswel give him a go up the order its not like the openers are scoring runs. 1. Macintosh 2. Watling 3. McCullem 4.Taylor 5. Williamson 6. Guptill 7. Vettori 8. Elliot 9. Mills 10. Southee 11. Mckay. Just give the gloves to watling we dont want to waste a player slot. It will be good when Neil Wagner becomes eligible aswel we seriously need some bowlers.

  • POSTED BY Haussen on | July 23, 2010, 12:05 GMT

    He might as well open with Vettori

  • POSTED BY mnemoniny on | July 23, 2010, 13:08 GMT

    Has everyone forgotten the clear evidence, offered up on our television screens every summer, that McCullum has precisely zero ability to play to the situation? "Attacking starts" will probably amount to flashy 30s off between 20 and 40 balls. His conversion rate will not improve until he grows a cricket brain to match his apparent skill with the blade of willow. If good bowling attacks are rattled at all by surprise aggression at the top of the Test order (hint: they won't be), then they will regroup quick enough to blow away an infirm batting line up. Brendon, mate, you're not going to run out of overs.

    To put the second coming of Gilchrist (oh yes, the two have been compared) in perspective, average of 30.32 with Bangladesh, West Indies and Zimbabwe removed from the numbers, average of 27.64 playing outside NZ.

    The bottom line is, Brendon, my countryman, that you can afford to slow down a bit across all three formats. Batsmen generally do that when out of form.

  • POSTED BY Gupta.Ankur on | July 23, 2010, 13:15 GMT

    i can't believe @shashankvaish has put sehwag& gayle in that list with sloggers like dilshan and mccullum...

    with the kind of talent pool NZ have even harbhajan could open for them.......

  • POSTED BY NanoTechnology on | July 23, 2010, 13:26 GMT

    Well, if he's going to give up the gloves, good luck with the batting. There's been sillier ideas than McCullum opening, although our lower middle order hasn't been the same since he started opening in ODIs. However in test matches by the time it gets down to number seven we usually don't have many runs, and so he can't play with his natural freedom. Not everyone can be Adam Gilchrist, that is, attacking no matter the situation. At the top of the order, even if he falls cheaply, it's not like its any different from how things are now. Good luck sir.

  • POSTED BY on | July 23, 2010, 16:38 GMT

    I think its just as well he's missing this tour... he might struggle to get any place as a specialist batsman.