Brendon McCullum hails England captain Ben Stokes’ ’empathetic’ leadership

By Sports Desk February 06, 2024

Brendon McCullum credits the inspirational leadership and “total conviction” of Ben Stokes for giving England a fighting chance of leaving India with a series win.

The score is tied at 1-1 after two gripping Tests in Hyderabad and Visakhapatnam, giving England a realistic shot at becoming the first side to win away on Indian soil since 2012.

Head coach McCullum will lead his side to Abu Dhabi on Wednesday for a short break before the contest resumes on February 15 and, while the players will be resting up with family rather than hitting the nets, he insists they will be ready to “drop the shoulder and go hard” when they return for the third Test in Rajkot.

A crucial part of England’s ability to do just that so far has been the contribution of three novice spinners in the form of Rehan Ahmed, Tom Hartley and Shoaib Bashir, who have defied their lack of experience to claim 26 wickets between them against players who have grown up against the turning ball.

And McCullum was glowing about Stokes’ ability to instil belief in the group.

“There are heaps of positives. Our spin bowling unit, albeit young and raw, have shown they’ve got what it takes,” he said.

“I put it down to the skipper. He has total conviction in his methods and is incredibly empathetic towards people.

“He spends time with them to ensure his messaging is really consistent, in his body language and behaviours, and he backs up what he says to them off the field with opportunities on the field. He is desperate to lead this team and he wants to take this team to whatever level he can take it.

“I am absolutely delighted in how they have performed with very little experience under their belt. You look around and you just see guys who look like they belong at international level.

“I think 1-1 is probably a fair reflection of where the contest is at the moment and, if the next three Tests are anything like these last two, it’s going to be one hell of a series.”

A return to form for Joe Root would be the biggest possible boost for England’s prospects, with the former skipper yet to make an impression with the bat.

A total of 52 runs from four innings represents a meagre return for a cornerstone player with a strong case for being the country’s best ever sub-continental batter.

The manner of his most recent dismissal, slogging wildly at the wily Ravichandran Ashwin, caused consternation, but McCullum harbours no such concerns.

“There are three Tests left, still an opportunity to score a whole s*** ton of runs,” he said with a smile.

“Joe’s a world-class player and as good as anyone England has ever seen.

“People will look to the dismissal, look at the method of his option, but he was trying to get the field back so he could milk them.

“It is the bravery you have to show at times and sometimes you get out doing it, that’s just the way the game rolls. There is no doubt from our point of view about that approach.”

England are not currently anticipating any changes to their Test squad for the second phase of the trip.

A virus has made an unwelcome intrusion on the camp but should be gone before the series resumes and concerns over Root’s injured little finger have eased.

There is no expectation of Harry Brook returning to the tour, with the team management giving him space to deal with the family matters that brought him home on the eve of the series.

The only uncertainty surrounds Jack Leach, who injured his knee in Hyderabad, missed the next game and has now been hit by illness.

“It is still pretty inflamed, but I don’t really know because he has been crook,” McCullum explained.

“His knee is pretty bad though and it was remarkable he got through what he did in the first Test match.”

Related items

  • Expanded CPL and UWI Internship programme open Expanded CPL and UWI Internship programme open

    The Republic Bank Caribbean Premier League (CPL) and the University of the West Indies (UWI) Faculty of Sport have expanded their hugely successful internship programme for the 2024 tournament which gets underway on August 29. 

    Now in its eighth year, the programme will this season have 18 places available for students to study for a three credit fully accredited UWI Sports Marketing course. Those students will also be given the opportunity to put the skills they have learned into practice as part of the CPL’s marketing team with an internship at games throughout the 2024 tournament.

    The programme has seen dozens of young people across the Caribbean get a fully integrated internship with the CPL team, with several of those interns then securing ongoing paid positions with the tournament.

    This year's edition of the tournament will have matches in Antigua & Barbuda, Barbados, Guyana, St Kitts & Nevis, Saint Lucia and Trinidad & Tobago.  There will be opportunities for intern in all of those countries as well as the academic Sports Marketing aspect of the course, which is facilitated via online classes delivered by the University of the West Indies.

    Chris Watson, Republic Bank CPL’s Head of Marketing, spoke highly about the programme's success.

    “We have had some outstanding young people take part in the internship programme over the years and it has been really pleasing to see many of these interns go on to have paid jobs within the CPL. More than this, all those who have taken part have had a great insight into what it takes to put on a world class cricket tournament and entertainment product. We look forward to welcoming the 2024 cohort when we get underway in August," Watson said.

    Meanwhile, Dr Akshai Mansingh, Dean of the UWI Faculty of Sport, echoed similar sentiments.

    "We noticed that the interns previously partaking in the programme were mainly university students from the region and beyond. This expansion to offer a three-credit elective will allow them to get credits for the programmes they are pursuing, while gaining valuable experience in the largest sporting event in the region," Mansingh shared.

    Applications are now open for those who are interested in taking part in the programme and you can apply via this link

  • England wing Jess Breach wary of rapidly improving Scotland in Six Nations clash England wing Jess Breach wary of rapidly improving Scotland in Six Nations clash

    Jess Breach insists England enter unknown territory when they meet a rapidly improving Scotland in the Guinness Women’s Six Nations on Saturday.

    The Red Roses have not lost in the fixture since suffering an 8-5 defeat in 1998 but that record faces its sternest test yet at a sold-out Hive Stadium in Edinburgh, where a record crowd of 7,774 will be attendance.

    Scotland toppled Wales in Cardiff in round one before being edged by France a week later and, having won the WXV 2 tournament in October, there is evidence the 28 professional contracts awarded at the end of 2022 are raising standards.

    England remain favourites but wing Breach insists the element of jeopardy is good for the Red Rose and the Six Nations.

    “It is going to be a really competitive game. And we’ve probably never been in this scenario with Scotland before,” said Breach, who has won on all 35 of her caps.

    “Everyone’s really excited because it’s going to be challenging for us. Hopefully we can showcase really good rugby for the fans.

    “It’s great for the competition. You can see that every nation is getting better after being contracted.

    “Italy put up a great fight against us in the first half, so it just shows that if money is pumped into the game and players are allowed to go full time, the Six Nations gets better.”

    Demonstrating the growth of women’s rugby is that Scotland’s victory 26 years ago was staged at an independent school in Edinburgh, compared to a packed Hive Stadium in 2024.

    “It feels like we’re growing and heading in the right direction. Every nation wants big crowds,” Breach said.

    “That’s happening at the moment and heading into the 2025 World Cup we should be able to sell most stadiums out. It’s exciting and who doesn’t want to be part of women’s rugby?”

  • On this day in 2004: Brian Lara makes record Test score of 400 not out On this day in 2004: Brian Lara makes record Test score of 400 not out

    On this day 20 years ago, Brian Lara regained the individual Test score world record on his way to an unbeaten 400 against England in the fourth Test in Antigua.

    Ten years after hitting 375 to claim the world record for an individual innings against England at the same venue, Lara exceeded that effort by becoming the first player in history to score 400.

    By doing so, he became the first player to hold the individual Test innings record twice.

    Lara reclaimed his record from Australian Matthew Hayden, who only six months earlier had broken the record with 380 in Perth in October 2003.

    Lara’s mammoth innings steered the West Indies to a total of 751 for five before declaring and reflecting on his achievement, he said: “When I scored it before I didn’t know what to expect – this time it was very tiring, but I’m here again.

    “Matthew Hayden must have batted very well against Zimbabwe because it doesn’t matter who you are playing against, it’s very hard.

    “It’s a great feeling, but it’s dampened by the series result. Ten years ago the match ended in a draw, but this time we’re looking for a result.”

    Upon achieving the record, Lara was greeted in the middle by Baldwin Spencer, the Prime Minister of Antigua, while England captain Michael Vaughan hailed Lara as “one of the all-time great players”.

    “We all set out to achieve greatness, but he is a gifted, gifted player – throughout his innings we tested him with a few things but he was much better than us for those two days,” Vaughan said.

    “He is one of the all-time great players, he has achieved something that has never been achieved before even with the amount of pressure he had on him before the start of this Test.

    “He will go down as one of the greats of the game and it will take some player and some performance to beat his 400.”

    Mahela Jayawardene went close with 374 for Sri Lanka against South Africa two years later but Lara remains first and third on the list two decades on.

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.