Brendon McCullum – Test appointment a ‘big risk’ but England’s new head coach confident of success

Brendon McCullum has admitted that his appointment as England’s new Test head coach was “a big risk taken by everybody” but believes there is strong core of talent on which to begin the side’s rebuild.

McCullum was named as the man to take charge in red-ball cricket earlier this month, stepping down from his role with IPL franchise Kolkata Knight Riders. Not only is the England job his first at international level, it is also the former New Zealand captain’s first involvement with the first-class game since his Test retirement in 2016.

“I don’t think it’s really that much of an issue, I guess we’ll find out in time,” he told Sky Sports at his unveiling on Friday, when asked about his lack of experience. “I’m confident in the skills that I’ve got, confident in the group that we have to start things off.

“Obviously it’ll take me a little while to become completely adjusted to some of the methods and the ways over here, and might take some time for guys to adjust to me as well. But I’m looking forward to it. It’s a big risk taken by everyone but you don’t get anywhere unless you’re prepared to take a couple of risks in life.”

McCullum is expected to take on more of a manager’s role with England, allowing the coaches under him to work with the players and the captain, Ben Stokes, to set the tone for the Test team, which has endured a fallow 18 months with just one win in their last 17 games.

“I certainly don’t coach technically,” McCullum said. “I understand the technique but for me it’s more around tactics, man management and trying to provide the right environment for the team to go out there and be the best versions of themselves.

“With Stokesy as captain, we’ve got a very strong leader, a real follow-me type captain, and then my job will be to ensure that we’re consistent with our messaging, we’re able to look after the guys in the environment and try to allow them to really grow at a speed that they might not have got to previously.”

The ECB recently launched a high-performance review of the game under Andrew Strauss, with a goal of becoming the best side in the world in all formats of the men’s game in the next five years. McCullum said that the talent among the players he will be working with was one of the things that attracted him to the job, but warned that it would take time to realise that goal in Tests.

“You look at the English side and the players around English cricket, there’s so much talent there,” he said. “There’s some guys who have probably been slightly disengaged, and there’s some guys who are yet to be discovered as well, but certainly not short on talent. When you add some world-class players who have had incredible careers, it [the Test role] became quite appealing.

“It’s going to take time. To me, it’s just trying to get some of these guys who have got an immense amount of talent playing to their potential, trying to play for one another and be a good representation of England, as well.

“Hopefully we’re able to achieve some good stuff along the way. I think in time, certainly [to] get to No. 1, challenge for the Ashes would be nice, and be up there when you’re talking the best Test teams in the world. But we’ve still got a long way to go before that.”

McCullum indicated that the Test team under the guidance of himself and Stokes would be likely to play in a “more positive” style, though the focus would be on players performing to their strengths rather than all-out attack.

He also said that part of the appeal of taking on the red-ball brief was the challenge of helping to revive Test cricket as a whole.

“I think if you look at my career I was able to play a fair amount of red-ball cricket,” he said. “To me, whilst I’ve been lucky enough to earn a good living out of the white-ball game round the globe, franchise cricket, etc, red-ball cricket has always been the pinnacle of the sport.

“If you look at where the game probably sits currently, it’s probably on a slightly downward trend. To me, the nation that can really change that is England because of the tradition of Test cricket here, also the fan following and the support that it gets in this country.

“So for us to be competitive at Test cricket, we’ll go a long way to being able to try and shifting the perception of red-ball cricket.”

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