By Jake Beleski
How many batsmen in the current Black Caps team would you say are worth the price of admission alone?
The elegant Kane Williamson and Martin Guptill – when in form – but that’s it.
Brendon McCullum showed in 21 balls on Wednesday night just how much of a loss he is to the national side as a batsman, captain and entertainer.
The former Black Caps’ skipper blasted his Brisbane Heat side to a 10-run win over the Adelaide Strikers in their Big Bash Twenty20 opener, and sent a timely reminder of how much his influence will be missed in the national set-up.
His 42 runs included four 4s and three 6s, and ensured the Heat reached a total (206-5) that was always going to be difficult to chase down.
McCullum adopted a near reckless approach to his batting during the last couple of seasons with the Black Caps, and it was that carefree attitude and aggressive intent that kept people coming through the gates.
No matter how brief his stay at the crease was, you always knew it would be edge-of-your-seat viewing.
He was lambasted for some of his shot-selection when things went wrong, but he had worked out a long time ago that for New Zealand to compete with the top teams in world cricket, aggression was the only approach.
He lit up the World Cup in 2015 with his brilliant stroke-play and innovative captaincy, and although it backfired spectacularly in the final against Australia, when Mitchell Starc removed him in the first over, he knew the positive approach was the only way to knock them over on their home turf.
You have to feel for Kane Williamson, who has taken over the McCullum-less side and has had to try and stamp his mark as the new leader of a team still riding on the coat-tails of their former skipper’s inspiring leadership.
The recent series against Australia was evidence this Black Caps side is unsure just what approach they need to adopt in the post-McCullum era.
But they need to work it out quickly.
Williamson does not possess the same brutal attacking game that McCullum used to lead from the front, but he has not been predicted to end his career as New Zealand’s best ever batsman for no reason.
He needs to work out where he wants to take this team, but the heights of the McCullum era seem a long time ago.