The Cricket World Cup which begins here tomorrow may be the tournament that sees the full flowering of Brendon McCullum, not only as a batsman or as New Zealand’s captain, but as a man finally comfortable in his own skin.
McCullum’s feats with the bat in the past 14 months have already left little doubt he owns a place among the very best batsmen in the world, not just in one-day and Twenty20 internationals which once gave the best forum for the expression of his attacking game, but also in Tests. In 2014 he became the first New Zealander to score a test triple century, followed that with two double centuries and amassed more test runs in a calendar year than any New Zealand batsman had done before.
More than that, as he toppled milestones and led New Zealand to unprecedented success — five Test wins in a year, more than it had ever previously achieved — he seemed at ease with himself.
The often brash, sometimes combative McCullum who sometimes frustrated, sometimes antagonized fans and other players, seemed to have been replaced by a calmer and more thoughtful player, one more respectful of the game and his position in it.
Asked today, on the eve of New Zealand’s World Cup opener against Sri Lanka, how different the Brendon McCullum of 2014 may be from the Brendon McCullum who played his first world tournament in 2003, he replied: “Quite different, I hope.”
“When I was pretty young I was very naive, I hadn’t really traveled much and I didn’t really understand my game either,” he said. “I hope I’ve become a more rounded, a more worldly person who’s developed a bit of an understanding of the team he’s playing in, his position in the side and his position in life as well.
“In 2003 I sat on the sidelines and watched and tomorrow I get the opportunity to lead the team out, so it’s been an interesting ride – I hope I’m a better cricketer and a better person now.”