Norquay: Brendon McCullum is gone - taking his swash and his buckle with him
OPINION: A swashbuckling cricketer who is anything but retiring, New Zealand cricket captain Brendon McCullum is now going to do just that.
He will play a world record 100th successive test from debut against Australia at the Basin Reserve starting on February 12, the second test at Hagley Oval in Christchurch a week later, then declare his international innings closed.
"I've loved my opportunity to play for, and captain the Black Caps, but all good things have to come to an end, and I'm just grateful for the wonderful experience of playing for my country," he said on Tuesday.
He had wanted to wait until after his final game to retire, but the impending naming of the Black Caps for the World T20 in India forced his hand.
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If hampering back injuries allow, in two months he will walk freely away from a game in which he once epitomised the cricket saying "six and out".
New Zealand will have to farewell two McCullums. Two faces, superhero and villain. He was swash. He was buckle.
His bat sent red, white and pink balls flying, inciting Kiwi crowds to fling their hands high in delight.
And yet his aggression at the crease often made for short stays there, and thousands of despairing hands flung over bowed heads.
At cricket grounds around the globe, crowd excitement drained away like hot air from a balloon when McCullum departed.
His aggression as captain owed plenty to his fondness of gambling. He was willing to risk defeat to win. He put his cricket cards on the table.
McCullum set mongrel attack dog fields, which saw him credited with breathing life into a game in danger of losing its relevancy in an era where people have less time to sit for hours watching willow pat leather gently back to the bowler.
Toward the end of his career, while afflicted with back injuries, McCullum, 34, moved further and further away from villain and ever closer to superhero.
He gradually won over his critics with three double centuries in tests, then in the summer of 2014 scored a New Zealand record 302 at the Basin Reserve, taking five minutes short of 13 hours to save the test, even raising hopes of winning it.
Like the best of the racehorses he likes so much to punt on, McCullum had proved he could stay as well as sprint. He held body and mind together for nearly two days.
After the World Cup semifinal final against South Africa at Eden Park he scored a crucial 59 off 26 balls, to help propel New Zealand into their first World Cup final.
That effort came after he ripped England apart in pool play at Westpac Stadium with 77 off 25 balls, and scored 50 off 24 in a thriller against Australia in Auckland.
And then back to buckle, bowled third ball in the final by Mitchell Starc. Villain again, with criticism of his captaincy and batting that had brought New Zealand that far.
McCullum never enjoyed the almost unquestioning adoration of recently retired All Blacks' rugby captain Richie McCaw, yet he better summed up the archetypical Kiwi "rugby, racing and beer" bloke.
He likes racing, he likes a beer and - as for rugby - he was once good enough to keep a talented Cantabrian called Daniel Carter out of a South Island secondary schools' team.
While his batting was publicly his greatest talent, it's possible his ability to inspire and lift a side was even greater, if not so apparent.
He got players on board with his way of playing the game. He sold them excitement and self belief, and he did it after deposing Ross Taylor only to see the Black Caps dismissed for 45 in his first test as skipper.
From that inauspicious start, statistics now have him as the most successful captain in New Zealand history. While he has had his critics, he must have done plenty of things right.
Now he will turn to his thoroughbred stable Vermair Racing, and presumably as a hired gun for Twenty20 squads around the globe. He's played professionally in Australia, India, England and Wales.
McCullum was in October portrayed as a successful businessman and sportsman, with a reputation to protect at the Chris Cairns perjury trial in London.
His various business interests were listed as cricket, buying and selling race horses, and exporting wine and meat to India.
So it's not a retirement in the traditional sense. He'll be busy, as Kane Williamson looks set to put on the captain's hat he has vacated.