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Feature

Brendon McCullum on his coaching philosophy: 'Respect the opportunity you have, go out there and do your thing'

New England coach on captaincy, culture and his 'no d***head behaviour' policy

Brendon McCullum looks on during a CPL game  •  CPL T20/Getty Images

Brendon McCullum looks on during a CPL game  •  CPL T20/Getty Images

Brendon McCullum, the new head coach of England's men's Test team, has never coached a first-class team before but has had some success with the Knight Riders franchises - Trinbago and Kolkata - in the CPL and IPL. Last year, before the start of IPL 2021, he was quizzed about his coaching philosophy during an appearance on the broadcaster Matt Floyd's All Out podcast…
On his coaching philosophy
"One thing I want to see as a coach is I want guys to take what they feel is their best game out into the middle. I don't want them to try and play my game or someone else's game.
"I want them to play the game that gives them the most amount of satisfaction because you get one crack at it and you want to know when your career has been and gone and you're sitting back on your couch, the opportunities that you had, whether you take them or you don't, you want to know that you did it your way."
On dressing-room culture
"I am big on culture as well. I think it can't be a forced culture, it needs to be organic, but for me there are a couple of fundamentals and that's you need to be on time and you need to try and play the game with a smile on your face and try and enjoy the experience that you've got and then all the pressures that come with it, I'll try and alleviate some of those."
On his 'no d***head policy'
"I think you sort of have to [have that policy], don't you? When I say 'no d***head', I mean 'no d***head behaviour' - don't do anything that's going to land you on the front page of the Herald [the New Zealand newspaper], or don't think because you're a cricketer that you're better than the people you walk past in the street.
"Just be a good person, respect the opportunity you have as a cricketer, and go out there and do your thing. It's fine to be different, that's completely fine and that's what makes this such a great sport too - trying to bring all these different characters together and try and come together for a common goal and a common cause."
On the importance of captaincy
"One of the other aspects I'm really learning as a coach is that you need to work with the captain [who] is the most important person in the team. They're the most important person in the squad. You need to identify what sort of captain you have, identify how they want the team to play and what tactics and what direction and culture they want the team to look like.
"Then, as a coach, it's just trying to keep the squad constantly on the same path towards that vision and also just plug some gaps where the captain needs plugs. The communication between those guys will then allow the performance on the field to replicate the work and the discussions that you have off the field."
On friendships with players
"It depends on what sort of coach you are. I'm an authentic person. I believe in being yourself and I don't mind being nice to people - that's OK too. Just because you're the coach doesn't mean you have to be constantly jumping on top of people and saying 'you've got to do this and you've got to do that'. I think there should be a level of respect there but also you need to have the ability at times to just make sure that you're still ultimately responsible for the environment that you've allowed these guys to operate in.
"I am a social type of person, that's just me. I love being around people and having conversations and having a drink or a game of golf and talking about cricket, and I think it'll be a really good challenge as well for me as a coach to see how that unfolds over the next few years and see if that strategy is right. I haven't had any complaints so far so we'll wait and see."
On mental health
"It is really important from a coach's point of view to have an understanding of it and you've got to provide the resource because I'm no mental health expert. I can't fix any issues that come up as such, you can be there to be a sympathetic ear but if people need help then you need to bring in some expert skillsets to actually assist those people.
"That's certainly something we've discussed in the teams that I'm coaching: do we need to bring someone in that can just be there just in case? Someone that people know if something is going on in their life, they can go and have a yarn to them and provide some expert resource around it - rather than someone like myself trying to put an arm round them and saying 'she'll be right, let's crack on with it'."
On the divergence between formats
"I think the game itself is in pretty good order. Yes, there's some areas that probably need some attention but it's probably just been slightly recalibrated. I don't see multi-format players are going to last, if I'm being honest. I think you'll have a one-day team, a T20 team, a Test team and they'll all have their own coaches and support staff and I think that's just the nature of how it's going to have to be."