English cricket launches new era with New Zealand flavor

There was a distinct New Zealand flavor to the new era for English cricket that was launched at Lord’s on Monday.

Brendon McCullum took his first training session as coach of the men’s test team that will be captained for the first time by Ben Stokes in England’s opening match of its international summer, starting Thursday.

The opponent will be New Zealand, where Stokes was born — he moved to England at the age of 12 — and for whom McCullum is a cricket great.

“It’s already strange,” New Zealand coach Gary Stead said of seeing McCullum take charge of England.

“I walked across the ground before, him and I walked together. I think he went into the right dressing room.”

As well as overseeing training from afar, McCullum was seen taking an active role by directing balls to a slip cordon for catching practice.

Having only retired in 2019, he is coaching a test team for the first time and has already had a major influence on English cricket. The attack-minded New Zealand team that McCullum captained provided the template for England’s World Cup-winning team of 2019.

England is hoping the same thing can happen in red-ball cricket.

“It takes time to play in that kind of fashion,” batter Jonny Bairstow said. “We saw it with the white-ball side, how that transition took a little bit of time to adapt to it.

“That’s the exciting part of it … the way Ben plays his red-ball cricket and Bazza (McCullum) played his red-ball and white-ball cricket, I’m sure there will be things that rub off within the environment over the next few weeks, months and years.”

McCullum played 101 tests for New Zealand and was known for being an aggressive, expansive batter.

He has spoken of wanting to rid England of what he described as a “fear of failure” and introducing a more relaxed environment. The team has only won one of its last 17 tests and is in last place in the World Championship standings.

“He is someone I have always wanted to work with,” Bairstow said of McCullum, “someone who I played against and — growing up watching him — someone I was very intrigued by and looked up to in many ways because of the way he went about his cricket.

“I’m very excited about the prospect of working with him, hopefully for a long period of time.”

McCullum will have three days to get his ideas across to England’s players before the first of three tests against the Black Caps, the world champion in that format.

“I know Brendon will have a clear vision of how he wants them to play the game,” Stead said. “Whether that happens instantly or not, I guess it always takes a bit of time to embed those things. I’m not sure his impact right now will be as much as you see in a year’s time.”

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