Brendon McCullum, the New Zealand captain, has said he needs more runs in Tests to “lead from the front” and is not as worried about his form in the shorter formats. McCullum’s last Test series was in Bangladesh, and he left the tour mid-way because of a back problem. He also missed the ongoing limited-overs tour of Sri Lanka to prepare for the home Tests against West Indies.
In two Tests in Bangladesh, McCullum scored 54 runs in three innings. Prior to that, during the summer in England, he had managed only 31 runs in four innings. His last respectable scores were in the home series against England in March when he scored a fifty in each of the three Tests.
“As captain I need more runs to have more impact with the message you’re delivering to the group,” McCullum told New Zealand Herald. “You always want to lead from the front. There’s huge pressure in the next few Tests, not just from the team point of view but the individual as well. I’ll certainly leave no stone unturned. Let’s see how I go and if it doesn’t work out we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.”
McCullum’s next opportunity in Tests is against West Indies in Dunedin from December 3. Before that, he will also lead New Zealand XI against West Indians in a three-day warm-up match starting on November 27 in Lincoln, having recovered from the injury that sent him home from Bangladesh.
“Before I went to Bangladesh I was the fittest and strongest I’ve been and tested off the scales, and still managed to pick up an injury,” McCullum said. “There was complete and utter disappointment. I knew it wasn’t great. That last game [second ODI against Bangladesh], I played on pretty heavy painkillers and that’s not how the game is meant to be played. I was incapable of keeping and was running around like an old man. Knowing I had to leave the tour, leaving the boys behind, was the hardest thing.”
McCullum also said he had felt soreness in his back while keeping in England, especially during the second Test in Leeds. “I blew my back out after about 53 overs when I reached to put a helmet down,” he said. “I’d love to still be keeping in Test cricket but it’s just not possible any more. I’m just lucky to be able to make the team as a batter, and some people question that, but I haven’t picked a team throughout my career.”
McCullum was not happy to give up the gloves but he was realistic about how long he might have had in the game if he had not. “It’s something I’ve got to look at, and it’s not very nice when it’s what you’ve been doing it for a while. It might be either that [finish keeping] or give the game up,” he said. “People think I pick and choose [games to keep wickets] but it’s nothing to do with that. I’ve got a 60-year-old back and if I want to be able to lift my kids at 35 it’s something I’ve got to entertain.”
For now, McCullum is focused on leading the side, scoring more runs and leaving the team in a better state than when he got it. “I believe in this group of players and want to make a difference,” McCullum said. “Just because I’ve had a few low scores hasn’t changed my thinking. I’m very determined to finish my career in a strong way and leave this team better than when I took over.”