Mumbai: With Brendon McCullum being appointed as the England men’s Test team head coach, the biggest challenge he faces is to turn around the fortunes of the side, which has won just one of their last 17 Tests under the leadership of Joe Root and Chris Silverwood.
With the England summer scheduled to kick off on June 2 with the three-Test series against New Zealand, an overhauled England side, which has a new managing director for men’s cricket, a new skipper in Ben Stokes and a new coach in McCullum, the primary task would be to usher in a new era where the players develop that winning mentality.
And for that to happen, the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) strategic advisor Andrew Strauss stressed on the need for an alignment between McCullum and new skipper Stokes.
“The most important thing of all is the connection and alignment between him (McCullum) and Ben Stokes, the captain,” ECB strategic advisor Andrew Strauss was quoted as saying by ICC. “Them forging a strong, productive relationship is going to be crucial,” he added.
Added to that will be the fact that McCullum, the former New Zealand skipper, would also want to implement his blueprint, which is an “aggressive and positive” mindset. That’s the same sentiment he had echoed when he captained New Zealand’s Test team between 2012 and 2016.
“It sounds corny, but we talk about the little boy who fell in love with the game: when you have that mindset you can be positive and aggressive, because you’re thinking about what can go right, rather than what might go wrong,” McCullum had said during his captaincy tenure.
“We wanted to be known as a team that no matter what situation we were in, we were going to make it bloody tough for the opposition to beat us. They might beat us, and if they outplay us that’s fine, but we’re going to make it hard.”
Developing a similar culture in the current England team will be a key part of McCullum’s job.
The early signs are good, with McCullum’s words being earlier echoed by Stokes when he was appointed Test captain last month. “In terms of on-the-field stuff, a great starting point for me is I want to have selfless cricketers who make decisions based on what they can do to win a game in that given time.”
With no current head selector in place, McCullum will have a free hand to play a leading role in the selection conversation ahead of the first Test against New Zealand at Lord’s, along with England men’s cricket managing director Rob Key, Stokes and selector James Taylor.
Apart from the selection, McCullum will also have to resolve who who comes where in the batting order.
Stokes will bat at six and Joe Root at four, but the make-up of the remainder of England’s top seven is unclear. Picking a top three to lead the new England era will be vital, as will making a decision on whether Jonny Bairstow will regain the gloves in place of Ben Foakes or be considered as a specialist batter.
In the short-term England have plenty of pace bowlers suited to the conditions of the home summer, but the role of spinner has been unclear, with selection flitting between Jack Leach, Dom Bess and the now retired Moeen Ali over recent years, as well as no spinner being picked at all on a number of occasions. Putting faith in a spinner, be it Leach, Bess or the as-yet uncapped Matt Parkinson will be high on McCullum’s priority list.