London, Sep 13 (IANS) England men’s red-ball coach Brendon McCullum has heaped huge praise on captain Ben Stokes, calling him “a rare, incredible person” who is a great thinker of the game. He also admitted to being surprised over how influential and successful Stokes has been as England’s Test captain.
Under Stokes’ leadership, England recently secured a 2-1 series win over South Africa, winning the third Test at The Oval by nine wickets. It also meant that England ended their home summer on a high, with their remarkable turnaround in Test cricket under the leadership of Stokes and McCullum being the highlight.
After winning just one Test in their last 17 matches, England have won six out of seven matches in this year’s home summer, starting with a 3-0 sweep of World Test champions New Zealand, followed by a record-breaking chase of 378 to beat India by seven wickets and came back from behind to defeat the Proteas 2-1.
“It’s been an absolute pleasure to work alongside them (England players), and I’ve particularly enjoyed working alongside the skipper (Stokes). He’s a rare human being and an incredible person. He’s a great thinker of the game, his messaging has been excellent as well. I thought he’d be good, I didn’t realise he’d be this good. A natural leader. It’s a wonderful fit for him,” said McCullum to Sky Sports after third Test ended.
McCullum, who took over as red-ball coach in April, conceded that he was amazed by the talent in the England Test side and is loving his current role at the moment. “Well I didn’t actually want the (England) job! But now I’ve got it, I’m loving it! Absolutely I am, and it’s certainly different to what I’ve ever done before.
“I’m loving the opportunity to work with some of the best players in the world. I always looked at English cricket and thought there was an immense amount of talent. I didn’t quite realise how much talent there is and how good these guys are and the way they think about the game.”
Reflecting on an incredible Test summer at home for England, McCullum elaborated on how the side wanted to play their brand of cricket instead of thinking about the end result. “We almost wanted to take results out of play – I know we’re judged by them – but almost take them out of play and play the style of cricket that is authentic to (Ben) Stokesy’s leadership and the guys that are in the side, and I felt we executed that nicely.”
“We’re well aware you’re going to be judged by results, but for us it was a little bit bigger than that. When you get an opportunity such as this, and the responsibility of being in these positions of leadership, you look at where Test cricket is around the world and how important it is to all of those who have played the game beforehand, and the relevance of it in international cricket.”
“For us, it was a matter of trying to bring a bit of enjoyment back, try and bring the fans in to make sure they’re enjoying Test cricket, and hopefully provide a bit more relevance to a game which has probably been under a little bit of pressure of late. That was the big goal and it will continue to be so moving forward.”