Some sportsmen are just a lightning rod for people's disappointment.
Fans invest so much hope and expectation in the teams they love and, when those aren't met, then someone has to be the scapegoat.
Brendon McCullum is one of those sportsmen.
His 1443 runs are the most scored by any batsman in the brief history of international Twenty20 cricket. He comes into this World Cup as the No 1 ranked T20 batsman in the game and, yet, if he fails tonight or gets out to a bad shot, when New Zealand meet Bangladesh, then folk back home will bag him.
McCullum is an extremely competitive man and hugely proud of representing his country. But credit, in New Zealand, only seems to be paid to the Dunedin dasher grudgingly. Instead he's often seen as selfish, disinterested and even arrogant.
“I can't change people's perception. They've got their own opinions and their own theories on certain things - that just comes with the territory if you've played for a long period of time," McCullum said yesterday.
“I guess it's easier to be able to have an opinion on someone who's been there for a long time.
“From my point of view, I know that while I've got the opportunity to play for New Zealand, I'm going to give it everything I have, as I have done over the last 10 years.
“You spend a lot of time away from your family [he is a father-of-two], you work incredibly hard while you're on tour and you're trying as much as you possibly can to make this team significantly better than when you came into it. But people will always have their own perceptions and you can't change that."
The 30-year-old McCullum has played some fine innings for New Zealand, few better than the 91 he made against India in the team's most recent competitive match, in Chennai. But, even so, the volume of runs he's scored at this level is a bit of a surprise when you think about all the other topline players around the world.
“Why are you shocked," McCullum asked.
Because it's quite a lot of runs, compared to his international peers, and must be a source of some pride to him.
“You don't get too hung up about that kind of stuff," he said.
“For me, it's always been about how you're contributing to the team. I guess stats, over a period of time, help tell if you're doing a good job or whether you're not.
“I'm obviously pleased to have played a significant role in this team so far and make the contributions I have in the Twenty20 game, especially. But none of that really counts for anything until you go back out on the park again.
“It's good to have achieved that stuff, but the next game's the important one."
But would he at least like a bit more praise for what he's done, since making his international debut way back in 2002?
“I'll try and answer this is the nicest possible way. It doesn't bother me either way.
“I'm out there to do as well as I possibly can in the time that I've got playing for New Zealand and trying to do the best I can to make the team succeed in games. That's always been my thinking and you get some accolades along the way and other times you get some criticism.
“It's just part and parcel of it. In five years time, no-one's going to be talking about me."
McCullum said he was fit to keep wickets tonight, having given the gloves to BJ Watling in New Zealand's warm-up match against South Africa on Monday. McCullum hyper-extended his right elbow when he collided with Kyle Mills during the fielding innings of that match in Chennai.
Despite the heavy strapping around his elbow during practice, which made him look more like Ben Franks or Roy Asotasi, McCullum said his range of movement was good and he wouldn't have any trouble keeping when the team meet Bangladesh at the Pallekele Cricket Stadium.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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