Cricket: Black Caps great Brendon McCullum confirmed as England test coach

Former Black Caps captain Brendon McCullum has been confirmed as the new head coach of England’s test team in another bold appointment coming soon after the decision to select allrounder Ben Stokes as captain.

The 40-year-old McCullum, who currently coaches Indian Premier League team Kolkata Knight Riders, has never been in charge of a test team and only retired from playing in 2019.

His contract with the England Cricket Board is a lucrative one for MCullum, reportedly worth NZ$3.9m over four years.

He was regarded as the catalyst behind New Zealand’s emergence as a major force in the test game — the Black Caps won the inaugural world test championship last year — and his preference for attacking cricket will be welcomed by Stokes at the start of a new era for England.

“For a kid from south Dunedin to be given the opportunity to try and help lead… one of the biggest nations in the world into the next era and hopefully try and reinvigorate some things and get some better results is pretty humbling,” McCllum told SENZ on Friday.

“So I’m really excited but also there’s some bittersweet stuff.

“It’s a big challenge and change for us. We’ve just settled back into things post-playing career. But, you know, the family’s fully supportive.

“In life, I think, if you’re going to change what you’re doing, then make sure it’s worth the risk of doing so and this is a big enough challenge to risk that, that’s for sure.”

McCullum’s first series with England will be against his native New Zealand in June, with the opening test beginning June 2 at Lord’s.

He said hearing God Defend New Zealand being played, while not wearing a silver fern on his chest wouldn’t be the most comfortable situation for him.

“That’s going to be a little interesting, I will say that, but at the same time there’s something kind of cool about it too because New Zealand is what I was able to be a part of for so long and I’m incredibly passionate about what we built,” MCullum told SENZ.

England has won only one of its last 17 tests, a run that includes a humiliating 4-0 series loss in the Ashes Down Under. That sparked a rush of dismissals and resignations — at one stage, England didn’t have a captain, coach or head of men’s cricket — but the leadership roles have been filled now, with Stokes replacing Joe Root as captain and Key the replacement for Ashley Giles.

“I believe in Brendon and Ben Stokes — a formidable coach and captain partnership,” said Rob Key, director of men’s cricket at the England and Wales Cricket Board. “Time for us all to buckle up and get ready for the ride.”

“He has a recent history of changing cricket culture and environments for the better and I believe he is the person to do that for England’s red-ball cricket.”

McCullum takes the position previously held by Chris Silverwood, who oversaw the test and limited-overs teams. The ECB has decided the red-ball and white-ball duties should be split going forward.

McCullum described Stokes as “the perfect character to inspire change around him” and said he was glad to have another Kiwi by his side in the role.

“I’m incredibly lucky that Ben Stokes is captain of the side and it gives me the opportunity to try and carve a pathway with him, another Kiwi who happens to be running England,” McCullum told SENZ.

McCullum will travel to England after the Knight Riders complete their IPL group campaign on May 18, subject to obtaining a working visa.

Midnight curfew set to get the chop

Brendon McCullum is likely to make relaxing England’s midnight team curfew one of his first big decisions as the team’s new Test head coach.

It is understood Ben Stokes is keen for the curfew to be dropped and he is unlikely to meet opposition from McCullum, who will want to build a good working relationship with his captain from day one as they embark on a partnership that could include two Ashes series over the length of his deal.

The midnight curfew has been in place since 2017 when it was imposed by then team director Sir Andrew Strauss after a string of late-night drinking sessions became public.

He acted after Jonny Bairstow’s playful headbutt in a Perth nightclub emerged during the first Ashes Test of the 2017-18 tour and followed on from Stokes’s arrest in Bristol, which happened in the early hours of the morning after a one-day international against West Indies.

The curfew was irrelevant during the pandemic because players were confined to hotels anyway but it was reimposed by Ashley Giles with the blessing of Joe Root and Eoin Morgan when touring resumed a level of normality last winter.

The curfew required players to be back at the hotel by midnight. They were allowed to carry on socialising after that point but only within the team hotel.

It was deeply unpopular with some senior players who felt it was an overly authoritarian move. It is understood Stokes believes players should be responsible for their own actions and if treated like adults will act accordingly. If they go out drinking at times when it would be unprofessional for the team’s cause, then they will be held responsible. He says he has learned from his own mistakes and has said he wants “selfless cricketers” in his team.

McCullum mentioned team culture in his first statement on Friday and as captain of New Zealand adopted a relaxed approach to player management but was also renowned for his toughness.

He shares many of the same ideas and values as Stokes and both are keen on players taking personal responsibility for their behaviour.

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