England cricket coach Brendon McCullum will bring Bazball back to its birthplace in a two-Test series against New Zealand which begins on Thursday in Mount Maunganui.
McCullum devised the eponymous strategy of all-out attack during his highly-successful term as New Zealand captain when he used it to upend the Black Caps’ traditional conservative approach and underdog mindset.
The policy, which hadn’t yet been named for “Baz” McCullum, largely reflected his own nature as one of the sport’s most attacking batters and his approach to life as a natural bon vivant. McCullum figured if somebody was going to play cricket, it should be fun.
“In any job you do you want to have fun, or else what’s the point in doing it?” he said.
“We get one crack at life. If you’ve got some skills, aspirations and dreams why would you not live those out and have a smile on your face?” Bazball has flourished since McCullum transplanted it in England among a team of kindred spirits, willing to risk losing in order to chase a win. England was down on its luck when McCullum became coach but now has won nine of its last 10 test matches.
McCullum now can display his refined version of Bazball to a New Zealand audience that saw it in its infancy. The move to the pink ball format on Thursday hasn’t pleased all members of the England team: fast bowler Ollie Robinson who is coming to grips with the pink Kookaburra ball called it “gimmicky.”
“They’re trying to get crowds in and change the game a little bit,” Robinson said. “But the way England are playing test cricket at the moment, I don’t think that needs to happen. We could stick to how we’re going and we’re entertaining people as we are so I’m not sure if it’s necessary really.”
Preparations for both teams have been affected by Cyclone Gabrielle which ravaged Auckland and New Zealand’s northern region and east coast, leading to the announcement of national state of emergency. The storm brought heavy rain and wind to the Mount Maunganui area, forcing teams to practice indoors.
New Zealand-born Ben Stokes who leads England is very much McCullum’s protege in the Bazball era and will again pursue an attacking strategy in the coming series. England has lost five of its six previous pink ball tests but Stokes is confident of a positive result from Thursday, weather permitting.
“I’m sure we’ll still come up with a way to hopefully force a result regardless of how much time is taken away (by weather),” Stokes said.
McCullum has kept England’s preparation relatively light, spending the first few days of the tour in the South Island resort of Queenstown and taking the team to the races on Saturday to see his horse, Defibrilate, run in a Group One race at Te Rapa. It was among the favorites but finished fourth.
New Zealand’s preparation has been troubled, made so by bad backs and babies and by travel disruptions which delayed the arrival in Mount Maunganui of some players. The fast bowlers Kyle Jamieson and Matt Henry both are out of the match, Jamieson because of a back injury and Henry because of the birth of his first child.
Two uncapped players, Jacob Duffy and Scott Kuggeleijn, have been called in as replacements as the New Zealand selectors elected not to call up the uncontracted Trent Boult, who lives close by and is available.
“It’s been decided since he gave up his contract that we would give priority to contracted players,” New Zealand coach Gary Stead said.
“We discussed it internally but our decision was not to go with Trent on this occasion.” England has named the 36-year-old swing bowler Stuart Broad in its match XI for his first first-class match since September. He joins James Anderson and Robinson in the pace attack.
As Gabrielle heads away to the east, the prospect of a major weather disruption eases. A few showers may fall on day one but the rest of the test should be played in sunny and warm conditions.
Teams: New Zealand (from): Tom Latham, Will Young, Devon Conway, Kane Williamson, Henry Nicholls, Daryl Mitchell, Tom Blundell, Michael Bracewell, Tim Southee (captain), Neil Wagner, Scott Kuggeleijn, Jacob Duffy, Blair Tickner, Ish Sodhi.
England: Ben Duckett, Zak Crawley, Ollie Pope, Joe Root, Harry Brook, Ben Stokes (captain), Ben Foakes, Stuart Broad, Jack Leach, Ollie Robinson, James Anderson.
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