“It must have been beginner’s luck, wishing for a star, that opened my eyes, and there you are.” Even in his wildest imagination, Elvis Presley would never have thought of a certain guy named Brendon McCullum when he wrote this song. But that perfectly sums up McCullum’s beginnings as a head coach.
Presley couldn’t believe such a gorgeous woman fell in love with him. It defied logic for him, just as McCullum’s nomination did for the rest of the world. Presley refers to this as beginner’s luck. For the cricketing fraternity still unable to grasp the logic behind this appointment, they too may view his performance as mere rookie luck.
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Maybe some things in sports are beyond the scope of empiricist epistemology, just like love. There is no truth here. A captain falls from the sky, the heeling ship stabilizes again, the chairs on the deck stop rolling, the navigation charts scattered on the deck realign. The team that struggled to amass 200 points is now chasing 378 for fun, the team that has lost 16 of its last 17 games has now won four in a row, and the talk of systemic reform, which has sprung up after the disappearance of their ash breakup in thin air.
What has changed, exactly? How does a change in hierarchy eliminate Jonny Bairstow’s glaring weakness to unstable deliveries? What catalyst did McCullum add to the process? Of the many records they have cleared in recent weeks, the most significant is the speed at which they escaped the nadir. From trough to crest in 30 seconds.
Tactically, there is no big change. They just score more than their opponents. When Ben Stokes won the coin toss, he chose to play first. Asked to explain his decision, Stokes said: “We hunted well and it’s also to see how the wicket performs. This gives us the opportunity to continue our momentum. On day five, Stokes cheekily commented that he wanted India to get 450, just to check how their team was tracking him.
Comments from cricketers should not be taken at face value. Maybe Stokes was pissed off in the locker room because their bowlers allowed India to run 378. Or maybe not. Here I am Team Stokes. With the kind of record breaking frenzy they’re currently in, no target seems out of their reach. Not only do they pursue it, but they suffocate it. And they do it with a big beaming smile on their face. The living embodiment of kill me softly. Like a cute boy who runs the death metal project about satanism and witchcraft out of his basement. Or as the England team would like to put it, they rock the stage like King Presley.
Brendon McCullum, the head coach, is a big fan of Presley. He wants his band of cricketers to behave like rockstars. Shortly after completing the winning single, Joe Root waved his finger at McCullum. It was a tribute to McCullum, who had been doing this all week after watching Elvis.
“Ben (England coach Brendan McCullum) wanted us to be entertainers, he mentioned trying to be ‘rockstars’ on the pitch,” Root said at the end. “Ben watched the Elvis Presley movie the other day, and he’s been doing this all week, so it’s a little tribute to him.”
Root also opened up about how he felt like a rock star during those “ten seconds” when he made the little finger gesture. “I don’t think I’ll ever be able to feel or look like a rock star, but for 10 seconds I could have done that today (laughs). That was what the little finger was. And so it’s more about just trying to have fun and really savoring every opportunity that you have to go out and show what you are and, you know, put on a show for everybody.
Featured Image: England Cricket