Brendon McCullum leaves his mark on cricket after 101 Tests for NZChristchurch: The impact of Brendon McCullum's retirement from international cricket on Wednesday was summarized, from an opponent's perspective, by Australian captain Steve Smith, who didn't know whether to be happy or sad.On one hand, Smith
Christchurch: The impact of Brendon McCullum's retirement from international cricket on Wednesday was summarized, from an opponent's perspective, by Australian captain Steve Smith, who didn't know whether to be happy or sad.
On one hand, Smith felt a hazy relief that he may never again have to contend with the challenge of containing McCullum, who at his best has been one of cricket's genuine match-winners, explosive and unpredictable.
McCullum demonstrated that trait in the second test at Christchurch his final match when, with New Zealand's first innings ailing at 32-3, he struck the fastest century in test cricket history by reaching triple figures from 54 balls.
At the same time, Smith couldn't hide an indefinable sadness the sense that with McCullum's international retirement after a career of 14 years something rare and precious had been lost from the game.
Asked about not having to face McCullum again, Smith said "I'd say it's pleasing but very disappointing as well."
Australia won the series 2-0 and regained the No. 1 test ranking, ending New Zealand's unbeaten run in test series at home since 2012 in a slightly disappointing finish for McCullum.
"Brendon's been an absolutely inspirational cricketer and leader for New Zealand," Smith said. "I think any captain ... you want to change the way your team plays for the better and I think Brendon has certainly done that. What he's done for the game is absolutely outstanding."
West Indies great Viv Richards, who held the fastest test century record at 56 deliveries, touched on that same feeling.
"If there was going to be an individual who you would've liked to have surpassed whatever you would've achieved in life, certainly it would be you," Richards told McCullum, adding that the way the New Zealander approached the game was attractive for crowds.
That summed up one of the main aspects of McCullum's career, especially in its late stages when he found ways to express himself and demonstrate his talent in all three forms of the game.
McCullum's name on a teamsheet was enough to bring fans to games. In his presence there was a sense of delightful unpredictability.
It could backfire at times, most notably in last year's World Cup final against Australia when he charged the first three deliveries of the match from Mitchell Starc, missed all three and was bowled. New Zealand never recovered from that and Australia dominated the final.
But when he did come off, and he did in so many forums, it became a badge of honor to fans to have been there.
McCullum in full flight with the bat was a glorious thing; a chance to watch at work one of the great and damaging strokemakers the game has produced. He set alight the Indian Premier League with an innings of 158 in its opening game and retires as the only player to have scored two centuries in Twenty20 internationals.
It was typical of McCullum and his sense of occasion that he made a mark even in his last international match with a test century of world record quality. But nor could he be pigeonholed as a slogger; while his stroke play in limited-overs formats could be innovative, he also had technique. He scored 12 test centuries and became the first New Zealander to score a test triple century when he reached 302 against India in 2014.
As a young cricketer he was thought somewhat callow: talented but immature and often unreliable. But he matured into a player whose leadership and character were responsible for a transformation of New Zealand cricket.
He was wracked by injuries, notably a chronic back problem which forced him to relinquish the wicketkeeping gloves, but he didn't miss a single test from his debut in 2004 until retiring after his 101st test match.
His individual feats thrilled fans but McCullum would hold that his greatest achievement came through his captaincy of the New Zealand team, though his accession to the role was controversial.
He started as captain in the face of hostility after his popular predecessor Ross Taylor was fired. The beginning was unpromising but McCullum quickly swayed his teammates, then fans. The steady stream of success New Zealand began to enjoy was one factor but it was the style of McCullum's captaincy that attracted support.
He was daring, aggressive and constantly innovative. He had the ability to make his players achieve things they might not have dared believe they could achieve. And the cricket world noted the approach of the New Zealand team under McCullum: the way in which they appeared to play with joy, with decency and respect for their opponents.
Kane Williamson, who succeeds McCullum as New Zealand captain, described the philosophy in a recent column.
"Something Brendon believed more and more was that runs and wickets were cool," Williamson wrote, "but being a good person throughout was the most important thing."