No3 test spot is no place for a swashbuckler

BY JONATHAN MILLMOW
Last updated 05:00 30/06/2010

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OPINION: Brendon McCullum is a gambler.

He backs the underdog rather than the favourite.

He likes the longer odds, more of a thrill. It is the same when he bats. If there is a fielder on the boundary he relishes the challenge of knocking the ball over his head rather than being weighed down by the possibility of hitting one down his throat.

Bumpers from the fast men are there to be hooked, not ducked under; four slips and a gully is a reason for him to drive rather than one not to.

Oh, and by the way, we are talking about test cricket.

Surely, no one is seriously considering this fabulously talented cricketer as a test No3 now that he has decided to shed the wicketkeeping gloves.

Good test first drops concentrate hard, play with a straight bat and score their early runs in singles between square leg and fine leg. Think Rahul Dravid (11,395 at 53.75), Hashim Amla (3353 at 45.93) and Kumar Sangakarra (7549 at 55.10).

A test match is a marathon, McCullum will turn it into a foot race.

With our useless test openers we are generally 0-1 after the first over, if McCullum bats at No3 on a greentop we'll be 10-2 midway through the second.

Let's not be fooled by the statistics being tossed around by supporters of this hare-brained idea. McCullum has batted No3 five times in five years – interestingly all in England – and amassed 200 runs at 40.

There was a mighty 96 at Lord's in 2004 but only one other score over 20. It's inconclusive.

He's too expansive, too valuable down the order, your instincts say no.

How many times has the person next to you leaned forward during McCullum's 52-test career and said: "This bloke's a test No3 if I ever saw one".

There is no harm in McCullum seeking such a lofty post in the New Zealand test batting order but the role needs to be earned with responsible hundreds at domestic level and in the test middle order.

The national selectors have to also work out what is the best way forward and a big part of that argument will be the runs McCullum provides when New Zealand's back is to the wall.

My nomination for No3 is Jesse Ryder, technically the best batsman in the side against fast bowling. Ross Taylor is an automatic selection at No4 and after that it gets interesting.

Martin Guptill has had success at No5, but only against Bangladesh. That is the spot McCullum should be considered for with Kane Williamson eased in at No6.

McCullum is a combative character. He can set his heart on No3 but what mugs the selectors would be if he was allowed to walk in without any questions asked.

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- The Dominion Post

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