McCullum deserved better than India's effort

MARK REASON
Last updated 05:00 19/02/2014
Brendon McCullum
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MAGIC MOMENT: Brendon McCullum celebrates his triple-century.

Was McCullum's 302 the ultimate innings?

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OPINION: The front foot takes up residence across the way, the weight of a bantam compresses the back leg and those blacksmith forearms crush the ball over extra cover for a boundary.

Brendon's Big Bash was as brilliant as it was certainly brave. Earlier in this match McCullum had tried to stand in for Ross Taylor at first slip. He didn't last a day. The skipper's wretched back creased him with pain. So to bat for over two days and to concentrate for 559 balls was heroic.

If you are a New Zealand fan, thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory, for ever and ever. Brendon McCullum is worthy of your faith. He played a great captain's innings, perhaps the greatest played by a cricket captain of New Zealand.

Other writers in these pages will give McCullum all the praise he so richly deserves. My intention is not to knock an epic knock, but to put it in a global context. Yes, McCullum has set world records, and nothing can detract from that achievement, but what will other countries say?

My guess is that they will take a long hard look at India, a country with an appalling record away from home, and wonder what on earth was going on. They will look at the facts and their faith in the game of cricket will be sorely tested.

These are those facts. In the fourth one-day international Shami dropped McCullum, a hard caught and bowled chance, when he had scored one run. When McCullum had reached 43, Jadeja and Rayudu dropped him, colliding in comical fashion.

In the fifth ODI Shami missed a ridiculously easy catch when McCullum was on 18. But what bothered me at the time was that Shami didn't look bothered. My mate and I looked at each other across a beer and raised an eyebrow.

In the first test Sharma missed a difficult caught-and-bowled when McCullum was on 46. On 102 Dhawan required two steps back to catch a simple top edge. But Dhawan ran under the ball. Dhoni and the third man pulled out of a skied catch when New Zealand's skipper was on 224. In the second innings Vijay dropped a sitter when McCullum was on 0. All schoolboy stuff.

And so to the second test. The odd thing about McCullum's dismissal in the first innings was that Jadeja looked embarrassed to have caught him. He signalled at his team-mates that he had been unsighted and smiled sheepishly.

In the second innings McCullum was dropped by Kohli on 9. The commentator called it a "dolly." That term took me back to childhood. When McCullum was on 34, Dhoni, who has consistently stood strangely deep to give himself the best chance, missed a catch that would have been a sitter if he had been a yard forward.

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On 36 Sharma dropped what should have been a pretty easy caught and bowled at this level. On 157 Dhawan put McCullum down in the slips. It looked a hard chance, but the ball had flown sluggishly. A good slipper would have snapped it up. That is eleven missed chances in the previous six innings by McCullum. Facts.

Only two conclusions are possible. Either this Indian team is one of the worst fielding teams in the history of the game - possible, very possible, and a national disgrace if true - or something suspect is going on.

Most of Stuff's online comment praises McCullum and rightly so. But there are doubters out there, even in New Zealand. Who can blame them when the wicketkeeper passes the gloves to Kohli and bowls an over or two himself.

"Dodgy," said one of you.

"Is this really a serious game?" asked another.

"Why are India playing without energy?"

We want to believe the evidence of our eyes, but Indian cricket has not made that easy over the years. Former captain Mohammad Azharuddin was banned at the end of the last century for matchfixing. He is now a member of parliament.

The current captain, MS Dhoni, is one of the subjects of an ongoing investigation according to reports in the Indian media. G Sampath Kumar, a police officer, has testified that: "There was negotiation for match-fixing between Rajasthan Royals and Chennai Super Kings, and CSK principal Gurunath Meiyappan has to communicate to CSK captain MS Dhoni and a few others for finalisation."

McCullum waits, he lets the ball come until he can almost smell it on the angled bat, then flicks it away with his bottom hand like a fly fisherman.

Delicious.

The world wants to believe the evidence of its own eyes.

But Indian cricket has let us and Brendon McCullum down. New Zealand's captain deserves much better. We all do.

- Fairfax Media

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