England coach McCullum eager to support ‘strong leader’ Stokes

Brendon McCullum is relishing the prospect of working alongside a “really strong leader” in Ben Stokes as they prepare to launch a new era for England’s Test team.

In the hot seat: Brendon McCullum speaks to the media at Lord’s on Friday.   -  Reuters

Brendon McCullum is relishing the prospect of working alongside a “really strong leader” in new captain Ben Stokes as they prepare to launch a new era for the England Test team.

McCullum himself has only been recently appointed to the role of England Test coach, with the team on a woeful run of one win in 17 matches ahead of its series opener against his native New Zealand starting at Lord’s next week.

Former Black Caps skipper McCullum is known for a bold approach that helped kickstart a revival in the fortunes of New Zealand, the reigning world Test champion, and his outlook is expected to dovetail with the attacking instincts of dynamic all-rounder Stokes.

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The England job is McCullum’s first as a red-ball coach, a point he acknowledged to reporters at Lord’s on Friday.

“I certainly don’t coach technically,” he told Sky Sports. “I understand the technique obviously but for me it’s more around tactics and man-management and trying to provide the right environment for the team to try and go out there and be the best versions of themselves.”

A big challenge

The 40-year-old added: “I think with Stokesy as captain we’ve got a really strong leader, a ‘follow me’ type of captain and so I think my job will be to try and ensure that we’re consistent with a lot of our messaging. I’ll look after the guys inside the environment as well and try and allow them to really grow at a speed which they might not have got to previously, so it’s a big challenge.”

McCullum said an improved England side would benefit Test cricket as a whole.

“I think for me red-ball cricket has always been the pinnacle of the sport,” he said.

“If you look at where the game sits currently, it’s probably on a bit of a downward trend and to me the nation that can really change that is England - because of the tradition of Test cricket here in England and I guess the fan following and the support that it gets in this country. For us to be competitive in Test cricket, I think will go a long way in trying to be able to hopefully just shift that a little bit in terms of the perception of red-ball cricket.”

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