England appoint Kiwi McCullum as Test head coach

By Sports Desk May 12, 2022

New Zealand legend Brendon McCullum has been appointed England's Test head coach.

The 40-year-old was confirmed on Thursday as Chris Silverwood's successor and will take up his first coaching role at international level.

Former Black Caps captain McCullum had been considered a strong candidate to coach England's white-ball teams, having been employed by Indian Premier League franchise Kolkata Knight Riders and Caribbean Premier League team Trinbago Knight Riders.

Rob Key decided to bring in separate Test and white-ball head coaches after he was appointed as managing director of England men's cricket last month.

Key led the interviews for both roles this week, and it is former wicketkeeper-batter McCullum who has been given the opportunity to turn England's fortunes around in the longest format under new skipper Ben Stokes.

McCullum said: "I'd like to say how pleased I am to be given this opportunity to positively contribute to England's Test cricket set-up and move the team forward into a more successful era.

"In taking this role on, I am acutely aware of the significant challenges the team faces at present, and I strongly believe in my ability to help the team emerge as a stronger force once we've confronted them head-on.

"I've enjoyed several robust conversations with Rob Key about the direction of travel for the team and have found his enthusiasm contagious. I'm no stranger to bringing about change within a team environment, and I can't wait to get started.

"Ben Stokes is the perfect character to inspire change around him, and I look forward to working closely with him to build a successful unit around us."

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  • Brendon McCullum and Ben Stokes’ England Test record since taking charge in 2022 Brendon McCullum and Ben Stokes’ England Test record since taking charge in 2022

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    First setback

    The Stokes-McCullum era began with a spectacular series win over New Zealand in June 2022, England chasing down fourth-innings targets of 277, 299 and 296 to win all three Tests.

    They lost the first Test against South Africa later that summer by an innings but responded in kind in the second en route to a 2-1 series win.

    A first-innings total of 657 in less than four sessions set the tone for a 3-0 win away to Pakistan in the winter and they then shared a series in New Zealand 1-1.

    Last summer’s Ashes were also drawn, 2-2, with Australia retaining the urn but both teams emerging with pride and credit from a thrilling series.

    Stokes and McCullum’s side also won a rearranged fifth Test against India in July 2022, which completed the previous summer’s series as a 2-2 draw, and beat Ireland in a one-off Test ahead of the Ashes.

    Captain marvel

    Stokes still has a 60.9 per cent winning record in Test matches as captain, behind only WG Grace (61.5 per cent) among Englishmen with at least 10 Tests in the role.

    He has won 14, lost eight and drawn one of 23 Tests, including one while deputising as captain for Joe Root in 2020.

    His personal contributions have been impressive, with 1,342 runs as skipper at an average of 36.27 and a strike rate of 65.62 – up on the respective marks of 35.77 and 57.54 when not captaining the side.

    That ranks him fourth among England run-scorers under his captaincy, behind Root (1,737), Zak Crawley (1,531) and Ollie Pope (1,413).

    While his bowling has been limited by injuries, his 29 wickets as captain have come at an average of 28.17 – far below his prior rate of 32.74.

  • Ben Stokes brushes off suggestion that England were not ruthless against India Ben Stokes brushes off suggestion that England were not ruthless against India

    Ben Stokes dismissed suggestions England lack a ruthless edge and expressed pride at how his team have fared in Indian conditions after not being given a “chance in hell” of success.

    England succumbed to a first Test series defeat under the leadership of captain Stokes and head coach Brendon McCullum, as India moved into an unassailable 3-1 lead with a five-wicket victory in Ranchi.

    India hit back from 177 for seven in reply to 353 to keep the first-innings deficit to 46 then England crumbled from 110 for three to 145 all out on a turning track and could not stop the hosts chasing 192.

    The tourists have let slip promising opportunities on several occasions in this series but Stokes is not one for regrets and instead commended Ravichandran Ashwin, Kuldeep Yadav and Ravindra Jadeja for swinging this Test India’s way after they shared all 10 wickets in England’s second innings.

    “Everyone goes into the game with their best intentions, when it doesn’t pay off people say we’re not ruthless but when they do, they say we are,” Stokes said. “I don’t really understand the saying.

    “We try to do what we think is the best way to win the game. It can be a throwaway comment when people say we’re not ruthless enough. You can say everything is a missed chance when it doesn’t go well.

    “When India have a sniff in conditions like that, any team is going to find it hard. When you’ve got three world-class spinners operating in those conditions, you know you’re going to be up against it.

    “Nothing is impossible, I wouldn’t say that. But it was nigh-on impossible to operate how we wanted to. Cricket is always skill against skill. On this occasion, their skill was better than ours.”

    The chase was far from straightforward for India, who slipped to 120 for five as Joe Root and Tom Hartley snared Yashasvi Jaiswal and Rohit Sharma before Shoaib Bashir claimed a three-wicket haul.

    But an unbroken stand of 72 from Shubman Gill (52 not out) and Dhruv Jurel (39no) got India home to dash England’s dream of a series decider in Dharamshala, with the final Test starting on March 7.

    India extended a proud winning record at home to 17 successive Test series against an England side who have relied on a rookie spin attack after Jack Leach’s tour-ending injury in the opening match.

    “We didn’t have a chance in hell of even competing with India but even that wasn’t an easy win for India and I think they would admit that,” Stokes told the BBC.

    He added in his press conference: “We always still felt in the game. Even with 30 runs left we knew that if we went bang-bang, all the pressure was back on India.

    “I’m proud of how everyone stuck at their task even if their role was just to be a fielder. That’s what I want from everyone, to never give up because you never know where a game is going to go.

    “It’s always disappointing being on the losing team. Obviously we want to win every game we play and win every series.

    “You can have it all taken away from you at the click of a finger so why not enjoy every opportunity to play and make sure you are doing it with a smile on your face regardless of what is happening.”

    James Anderson bowled a three-over spell but was off the field for much of the fourth day while Ollie Robinson was unused as Stokes stuck with frontline spinners Bashir and Hartley and part-timer Root.

    Stokes revealed no risks were taken with Anderson because the 41-year-old was feeling tightness in his quadriceps, having sent down 94 overs in three successive Tests.

    “Jimmy’s fine,” Stokes added. “There was no chance he was going to bowl at all in the (rest of the) game.

    “You look at risk v reward, there’s not too much reward from Jimmy being out in the field if he’s got a pretty tight quad after playing three back-to-back Test matches in India.”

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