McCullum may be leading NZ into golden era

IAN SNOOK
Last updated 05:00 20/02/2014

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OPINION: According to cricket guru Mark Richardson this was the "greatest ever innings" played by a New Zealander.

Cricket is full of wonderful stories and statistics, and right up there now is Brendon McCullum's 537-ball innings of 302, the first Kiwi to reach the magical 300 mark and surpass New Zealand's supreme batsman Martin Crowe, who fell short on 299.

In 150 years of cricket, McCullum is the first Kiwi to step in to this elite category.

While contemplating this innings, just give a thought to Brian Lara, the great West Indian. He leads the test scorers' list with 400 not out against England, having 10 years earlier completed the third highest score of 375, again versus England. Now that takes some doing.

McCullum's two full days at the crease, the equivalent of a season's worth for most club cricketers, produced a match-saving innings.

It also broke just about every record going, along with century-makers BJ Watling and Jimmy Neesham, and should now see his photo at the top of the stairs at King's High School in Dunedin.

Here he can join other notable sporting hierarchy such as All Black, Rhodes Scholar and diplomat Chris Laidlaw, All Blacks fullback and former coach Laurie Mains, All Black Tony Brown, New Zealand cricket captain Ken Rutherford and New Zealand cricketer and former coach Warren Lees.

McCullum has certainly carried forward the tradition of producing strong leaders from this part of town.

Of course, the greatest aspect of the innings was the situation in which it was scored.

Just when it appeared as though a likely great home season was about to turn into a reasonably good season, McCullum stepped up and, along with Watling in particular, then Neesham, produced a performance that will go down in New Zealand cricket folklore.

The big question now is whether or not New Zealand cricket is heading in to another ‘golden decade' similar to the 1980s, when Richard Hadlee spearheaded the attack and ensured a good team became one of the best.

There are several encouraging signs that this might be so. McCullum has obviously built a loyal and hard-working team around him and has demonstrated a positive approach to the captaincy, not unlike the shrewd Geoff Howarth in his heyday.

Ross Taylor has matured into a batsman ready to emulate his mentor and great player Martin Crowe. Kane Williamson has the cricketing smarts, concentration and ability similar to Glenn Turner, who managed to churn out more than one hundred hundreds in his career.

And this test match has revealed a Bruce Taylor mini-me, an all-rounder with colossal hitting power and bounce bowling, a player who scored a century and took five wickets in an innings in his first test, in the form of Neesham.

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It might be too early to compare Corey Anderson with a John R Reid or a Chris Cairns, but early signs are that he could go on and be even better than these two giants of the game. With BJ Watling already a proven performer with the bat he is likely to become the most prolific wicketkeeper-batsman this country has produced.

Tim Southee and Trent Boult are growing in stature, and suggest glimpses of the great "Paddles" Hadlee. Between them they can cause problems, particularly in New Zealand, but Hadlee is going to be hard to emulate and there-in might just be a chink in the armour.

There are a few other obvious holes, but this is a good start.

Looking forward, the New Zealand cricket fan can feel a lot more positive than he has been for quite a while.

The summer has produced some fantastic viewing.

Ian Snook is a former Taranaki and Central Districts captain. He is one of only four men to have played more than 100 games for Taranaki.

- Taranaki Daily News

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