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  5. The 'Baz' effect: Why England is entirely different Test side under McCullum and Stokes?

The 'Baz' effect: Why England is entirely different Test side under McCullum and Stokes?

Fearlessness and a going-for-the-kill attitude were missing in this England side. With Stokes and McCullum at the helm, this is exactly what they have got. It is not the players, but the mindset that has changed. 

Kartik Mehindru Written by: Kartik Mehindru New Delhi Published on: June 28, 2022 18:05 IST
Ben Stokes and Brendon McCullum | File Photo
Image Source : AP

Ben Stokes and Brendon McCullum | File Photo

Highlights

  • McCullum has made his career out of being absolutely fearless.
  • Over the last few years, England cricket has had to deal with two contrasting stories.
  • They dominated the white-ball format of the game, but stooped to new lows in test cricket.

It was December 2012 - Brendon McCullum got designated as the new captain of New Zealand's Test side. In his first assignment vs South Africa, the Kiwis were steamrolled 3-0 by the Proteas. 

A decade later, Brendon McCullum got designated as the head coach of England's test side. This time, Brendon would redeem himself as under him, England crushed New Zealand 3-0. Though it makes for a great redemption arc personally, funnily, New Zealand had to bear the brunt of McCullum at the helm both times.

McCullum has made his career out of being absolutely fearless. He wasn't afraid of going from ball one. He wasn't afraid to lose. He wasn't the one to get bogged down by the opposition. He took on the situations head-on without much thought and that is his legacy - being fearless and free. 

Over the last few years, England cricket has had to deal with two contrasting stories. One of invincibility. The other of haplessness. 

While they dominated the white-ball format of the game, they stooped to new lows in test cricket. From June 2021 and before the now concluded New Zealand series, England played 14 tests, was able to win just one vs India at Leeds and drew four. They lost the rest of them, and that included Ashes.

Obviously, with such dismal results, a change was coming. Joe Root stepped down from captaincy, and Chris Silverwood was relieved from his duties. There was a clear change in approach needed. A kind of change that made England word-beaters in white-ball cricket.  

From within the team, the Board didn't need to look beyond Ben Stokes - the epitomy of fearlessness. ECB, in one of the most talked about decisions, then appointed Brendon McCullum as the head coach. With two of the most aggressive and attacking minds at the helm, the message was clear - the test team had to go for the kill. 

Who would have thought that when England were reeling at 55/6 in the 3rd Test vs NZ, Jonny Bairstow would play one of the greatest test innings ever, scoring 162 off just 157 deliveries? If that isn't enough, he came back in the second innings and smacked 77 off 44 deliveries to hand England a series sweep over New Zealand.

All right, one could argue that Bairstow's natural game has always been attacking. But what about Joe Root, who played an outrageous reverse sweep for a maximum to Neil Wagner? 

Ben Stokes led from the front in the 2nd test - smacking 75 off 70 deliveries. It is worth noting that this wasn't a second-string NZ side that England defeated, they beat the World Test Champions. 

Bowlers have always been good for England, it was the batting that disappointed them and cost them so many matches. Fearlessness and a going-for-the-kill attitude were missing in this England side. With Stokes and McCullum at the helm, this is exactly what they have got. It is not the players, but the mindset that has changed. 

The 'Baz' effect is all over England, and Stokes is there to back it. The message is clear. The England Test team is going for the kill.

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