McCullum, Black Caps must block out noise
MARK GEENTY IN PORT ELIZABETH
The noise from back home is becoming deafening for New Zealand skipper Brendon McCullum, even this far away.
But today he got some sage advice from someone who should know: his opposite number, Graeme Smith.
Block out the noise, keep a level head and show some strength of character.
McCullum leads the New Zealand team into tonight's second test under even more heat, after his side's first innings 45 all out in the Cape Town test led to an innings and 27 run defeat against South Africa.
Talkback callers bellowed, internet message boards were clogged. The reaction was brutal to the team's performance, in the wake of the poor handling of Ross Taylor's removal as skipper by coach Mike Hesson.
Then New Zealand Cricket's (NZC) director of cricket, John Buchanan, chimed in with his clearest, most sensible comments since taking over the role in 2011.
"The reality is ... that things like integrity, trust and accountability doesn't reside consistently, or constantly, within our organisation," Buchanan said.
"We need to accept that fact, and deal with that."
Buchanan said another humiliation like the 45 all out would happen again if this wasn't addressed at NZC.
Smith, in his 10th year as South Africa's captain, was asked for his observations of McCullum's captaincy and how he might be handling it.
"A game like that always gets you to ask questions when you've been beaten comprehensively," Smith said.
"It's never easy as a captain, you carry a massive load especially in those situations."
"You have to front up for them and that creates a lot more pressure on you, and certainly he will be feeling that. Especially with everything that's gone on, he would want to put in a big performance."
Smith said keeping a level head and not getting too emotional around the team was the key, and things would get easier.
"Brendon has played a lot of cricket around the world, he's interacted with a lot of people and he's been around the game for a long time, and I think he would certainly be able to handle that situation and hopefully get the best out of his guys," the South African skipper said.
"The key then is when there's a lot of noise around you just try and focus on how do you get your team through that noise and keep them focused on what's important and get the cricket side right.
"That's the most important thing."
McCullum later suggested with a grin that Smith was being mischievous with his advice, but nonetheless was intent on not letting the "noise" enter his brain.
"Smithy is a very astute man who likes to ruffle a few feathers in the media as well, knowing him reasonably well," McCullum said.
"From our point of view, what's going on is going on. We've got a job to do. This bunch of players, myself included, is here to play with as much pride as what we possibly can.
"We think we showed some character in the last match after a horrendous first innings.
"We know that that performance wasn't great but we progressed as the test went on. We know the fans back home are wanting a fighting performance from us and that's what we're looking to try and deliver.
"That's our focus, on the job at hand and not any peripheral issues."
The proof will be in the pudding over the next five days.
- Fairfax Media
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