Imagine a fairy tale story of one of the best hitters in a game, smashing all records to make the fastest century in Test Cricket and that too in his final outing.
This was the script executed to perfection on February 19, 2016 at the Hagley Oval in Christchurch.
Captain Brendon McCullum picked his moment to say goodbye to New Zealand Cricket after 14 years and did so in a style so typical of his on field personality.
New Zealand has had many great Cricketers but there has only been one true global superstar. In a Rugby dominating country, euphoria for a Cricketer is rare, especially given the fact that Black Caps have traditionally been an ordinary side.
McCullum changed all that. He emerged as a crowd puller and transformed the team into a Cricket powerhouse under his captaincy.
Baz, as he is affectionately known, made his debut in 2002 against Australia in Sydney in the one-day format and had to wait two years before donning the whites against South Africa in Hamilton.
From then on, he was a regular face in the squad, picked for being a brilliant athletic keeper who could bat. He appeared to be given a license to emulate Adam Gilchrist where accelerated scoring became a norm. This meant his consistency was shaky but when he scored, he set a mark.
His hand-eye coordination, bat speed and impeccable timing made him look brash and brutal yet brilliant to watch. He showed no mercy for any bowler. To not watch McCullum bat was a sin for any Cricket lover.
At the crease, he tried to muscle every delivery over both sides of the field.
His attacking style came at the risk of untimely dismissals which explains his average score in the 30s across all formats of the game.
In another captivating coincidence, McCullum happened to open the batting for the first ever innings of IPL (Indian Premier League) for Kolkata Knight Riders.
He got the Tournament to an electrifying start with an impressive 158 to show what the T20 format was capable of.
In the modern game, his is one of the most influential batsman alongside AB De Villiers. In the present era there are terrific batsmen such as Steve Smith and Virat Kohli. However, McCullum was destructive in addition to being terrific.
He mental resolve is also laudable. On India’s last tour here, the visitors had the Black Caps in a pickle facing an imminent defeat in the second and final Test at the Basin Reserve. McCullum came to the crease and batted for nearly 13 hours, amassing an historic 302. This showed he could fight his high-octane mode and adjust according to the situation.
Besides being instinctive, McCullum also had his game plans in place.
He not only played on the strengths of his team and himself, but also had in place measures to protect the limitations of his players.
The manner in which the Black Caps dominated the 2015 World Cup was a testament to his creative thinking. As the poster boy for the event, his influence was such that even those that don’t really understand the game come to watch him bat.
McCullum holds a couple of other notable records.
He is New Zealand’s only Test triple-centurion to date and the first international player to play a 100 consecutive tests from debut.
His captaincy came under unpleasant circumstances. However, a positive approach and good man-management skills ensured that there was a smooth transition. He received support from the coach, Otago buddy Mike Hesson, with a free reign to captain the way he wanted to as long as he produced results.
The results have been great.
He leaves the Black Caps in a great shape for the T20 World Cup but the blunt reality us that the team will be a touch depleted without his presence.
So long Baz – it has been truly entertaining.
Ravi Nyayapati is one of our Sports Correspondents based in Auckland. He is the Convenor of the Independent Panel of Judges of the Indian Newslink Indian Sports Awards 2016.
Brendon McCullum (Picture Courtesy: BCCI)