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Updated: August 22, 2012 16:22 IST

Padded up for battle

V V SUBRAHMANYAM
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Star player: New Zealand cricketer Brendon McCullum bowls during a practice session in Hyderabad. Photo: AP
Star player: New Zealand cricketer Brendon McCullum bowls during a practice session in Hyderabad. Photo: AP

Brendon McCullum believes keeping the scoreboard moving is vital to exert pressure on the opposition

There’s an air of expectancy when the dashing Brendon McCullum is around. After his murderous onslaught in the inaugural match of the first edition of the Indian Premier League, this explosive opener is now in the mood to strike the desired “balance between aggressive batting and the ability to stay at the wicket to play long innings.”

Interestingly, McCullum returns to the Rajiv Gandhi Stadium in Hyderabad (venue of the first Test between India and New Zealand from August 23), where he notched up his Test-best score of 225 in the 2010 series.

“It is important to try to be positive at all times and try to put the pressure on the opposition and the bowlers,” says the 30-year-old batsman, arguably one of the big hopes as the Kiwis plan to script some surprises against the formidable Indians at home.

With his captain Ross Taylor insisting in his pre-match briefing that Brendon McCullum will open the innings, the flamboyant batsman looks at this as a challenge. “Even by playing aggressively and putting the opposition under pressure, you can still save a match,” is his argument.

This New Zealander, who has been a big hit in the T-20 format and is one of the very few who have hundreds in all three formats – Tests, ODIs and T-20 internationals— reveals that it might look normal for the average fan in the stand when a batsman faces the bowling. “There is a mental battle going on when you are at the crease. Your success depends on your ability to spot the variations, line and length that fraction of a second quicker,” he points out. “You have to be ready with different strategies for different bowlers,” insists McCullum.

Interestingly, McCullum who played 203 ODIs scoring 4554 runs at 30.36 with four centuries, is no more keen to don the gloves behind the stumps. “It is more than two years since I kept wickets; I prefer to play as a batsman,” he says.

Referring to the absence of the most experienced cricketer and injured left-arm spinner Daniel Vettori for this tour, this extravagant stroke-maker is quick to say: “Vettori has been our most inspirational and successful captain and it is not going to be easy without him on this tour.” “But again, these are things which throw challenges for the others like Jeetan Patel and Tarun Nethula,” he added.

On the Indian team, Brendon McCullum believes that the absence of VVS Laxman and Rahul Dravid will mean the home team will miss their vast experience and class. “The fact that we need to face them with credentials on the field should be a huge relief for any team,” he points out. “There is that extra spring in the feet of the bowlers on hearing the retirement of these two great cricketers, even as India has exciting talent on the bench,” he says.

“I remember vividly how Laxman, a phenomenal player, and Harbhajan saved the Test match against us the last time we were here. We are definitely lucky that the star batsman is not here this time around,” signs off the Kiwi opener before joining his teammates.

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