Openers on the front-foot, players setting their own standards and pragmatic team selections… How Brendon McCullum will loosen the shackles as England enter a new era in Test cricket
- England enter a new era of Test cricket this week under Brendon McCullum
- He has taken a pragmatic approach towards selection, with very few changes
- Unlike before, McCullum will tell his players to be accountable for their actions
- Showing greater intent at the beginning of each innings will now be the plan
England enter a new era of Test cricket this week with fans eager to see what improvements coach Brendon McCullum will inspire.
Off the field and on the field, a number of changes will need to be made by McCullum if England are to become the best Test side in the world.
Here is an assessment of what changes he will bring…
England enter a new era of Test cricket this week under new head coach Brendon McCullum
Evolution not revolution
Those expecting left-field batting picks and leg spin will be disappointed. A pragmatic approach has been taken towards selection, with precious few changes, aside from recalls for the prolific new-ball duo of Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad.
It appears to be an acknowledgment that a ship is not turned around by shoving it into reverse gear.
Changes will come in time, if and when required, but for now McCullum has invested his trust in the same centrally-contracted personnel who have been involved in the run of one win in 17 matches.
Change in mindset
While McCullum brings with him a carefree attitude, it co-exists with a requirement for his players to be accountable for their own actions.
In contrast to the previous regime, whereby players became weighed down by information and instruction, they will be encouraged to police their own standards.
Players will be accountable for their own actions and encouraged to police own standards
Those who have worked closely with him have spoken of his ability to lighten the mood while reinforcing the general direction of travel for the team and the individual roles within it.
McCullum and new Test captain Ben Stokes both read from the same playbook: if there are two options, they promote the more positive one. This doesn’t mean going gung-ho. Indeed, Stokes’ most memorable performance for England shirt was decisive rather than destructive.
McCullum and new Test captain Ben Stokes (pictured) both read from the same playbook
The historic hundred at Headingley that defeated the Australians three years ago was subdued in its infancy but Stokes had planned it that way.
The best way to secure the win in that famously thrilling run chase was for him to be unbeaten at the close on day three and so making two from his first 66 deliveries was immaterial.
It will mean showing greater intent at the beginning of each innings. Under the former team management of Chris Silverwood and Joe Root, the template of scoring big runs often resulted in stroke-play being sacrificed in the name of crease occupation.
Zak Crawley (pictured) and Ollie Pope will be encouraged to play their natural game
Now batsmen such as Zak Crawley and Ollie Pope will be encouraged to play their natural game and transfer pressure onto opponents whenever possible.
With the new ball, when conditions suit, expect occasional adjustment from a ‘pro’s length’ that has proved successful for English seamers, to a fuller one, which will invite the drive at the risk of boundaries but get the slip cordon interested, something which has been slow to happen.