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The Briefing

The McCullum takeover is Baz news for cricket the world over

Everyone wants a hit of Bazball and the nice-guy stakes have never been higher

Ben Stokes and Brendon McCullum chat at England's training session, Lord's, May 30, 2022

Play hard but play nice: Bazman and Ro-Ben plot world domination  •  Philip Brown/Getty Images

Culture. It's the difference between good and mediocre yoghurt.
But also apparently the difference between good and mediocre cricket teams. You can't take over a head-coach gig and just work on players' skills and performance anymore. This isn't the 1950s, dude. You've gotta change the culture, bruh. It's all about the vibes now, man. Pass that sporting altruism to the left and be respectful about it please.
As watchers of cricket, we love it, obviously. We have no choice but to. The world needs more kindness, empathy, love, etc, and so on. So now, instead of just watching sporstpeople who are way more genetically gifted than us, we have to watch them talk and act like they are much better human beings also. It's great, honestly. I mean, who could possibly object?
The Englishcricketisation of McCullum
Of the people who have led cricket to its nice-guy enlightenment, no one is more responsible than Brendon McCullum. Having turned the New Zealand men's side into the kind of team you'd take home to your parents, he also supposedly "McCullumised" England's cricket in 2015, when his Test side played so aggressively, England couldn't help but adopt a bit of that aggression themselves.
Seven years later, he is England's head coach, and it is clear now that they are addicted to McCullum in ways that New Zealand never were. Rearrange the furniture to maximise the flow of pure McCullum chi through the dressing room. Throw out all your belongings that don't spark McCullum. Inhale a cloudy pipeful of McCullum in a back-alley McCullumhouse.
Britain needs him. It knows what it must do. Have him marry the Queen.
Bazball
What exactly is Bazball?
When a fielder sledges you and you sledge them back with runs. That's Bazball. When you are so intent on showing respect to the opposition's bowlers you walk down the track, clear your front leg, and respect them repeatedly into the sightscreen. That's Bazball. When an old lady needs help crossing the street, but instead of walking her across you fire her from a cannon all the way into her house. Definitely Bazball.
And who owns it? Scouring former colonies. Taking know-how. Making it a quintessential part of your culture suddenly? When something has been around for a while, but the rebranding is so strong it seems futile to resist... perhaps this is also Bazball?
Australia are nice too
Not to be outdone for nice-guyness by their traditional rivals, Australia have been poster tourists in crisis-hit Sri Lanka. They've added their voice to fundraising appeals, expressed gratitude for being able to play cricket during such difficult times, and Test captain Pat Cummins has even posted power-cut content from a dark Colombo restaurant.
Having just toured (and won in) Pakistan, are Australia becoming exemplary global citizens all of a sudden? Have they been Bazzed as well?
And if this keeps going, what's going to happen at the next Ashes? Instead of "How's your wife and my kids?" and "Get ready for a broken f***en arm," will we have a minutes-long embrace between the two captains before each match while entire stadiums weep quietly over the beauty of it all? We're living in the future.
The most Baz of all
As Australia's tour has brought some much-needed foreign currency into a weak economy, many Sri Lanka fans dressed in yellow for the fifth ODI in Colombo, in order to show their appreciation for the touring team. Players are paid to Bazball. The Colombo crowd took it to a new level. They paid their own money to Bazwatch.
The feeling
Even leaving international cricket behind is an exercise that did not go untouched by Baz. Eoin Morgan, who adopted the McCullum method to lead his team to a World Cup final and sort of win it, said that McCullum had told him about feeling the urge to retire. "You'll know it," McCullum had told Morgan. "It will be a feeling that just comes and hits you."
Always with the hitting, this guy.
The entertainers
Through the course of his extraordinary run recently, Jonny Bairstow has mentioned (and his words have been echoed by team-mates) that they are playing the way they play not merely for themselves, but to bring joy to their public, and to the world of cricket at large, following two years of Covid, etc. Cricket as public service. Paragons.
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Next month on The Briefing:
- Bairstow wins Nobel Prize for Smashing It.
- England outlaws forward defence. Teaches reverse scoop as foundational cricketing stroke.

Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. @afidelf