IMAGE: Brendon McCullum of New Zealand and his family look on during the presentation after the Christchurch Test. Photograph: Ryan Pierse/Getty Images
New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum expected to wake up on Thursday feeling “a bit dusty”, hopefully with his cricket gear still intact rather than ceremonially burnt to a cinder and looking ahead to not doing a lot.
The 34-year-old McCullum retired from international cricket after his side’s seven-wicket loss to Australia at Hagley Oval on Wednesday, which gave the visitors a 2-0 series win and propelled them back to the top of the world Test rankings.
McCullum’s swan song was signalled last December after a chronic back injury finally forced him to acknowledge time was being called on his career.
“The time’s right. And now I walk away comfortable with my decision and looking forward to the next stage of my life,” McCullum told reporters on Wednesday.
“You walk away knowing that you’ve been able to front up and try to go out there and get a performance on the board and I guess now you’re a little bit relieved.”
‘I walk away comfortable with my decision’
IMAGE: Brendon McCullum of New Zealand leads his team out during his final day of the Christchurch Test. Photograph: Ryan Pierse/Getty Images
An aggressive batsman with a superb eye and fast bat speed, McCullum could rip apart any attack when the mood found him.
It was perhaps somewhat fitting that the mood found him in his finale, rescuing his side from 32 for three on the first day to blast the fastest Test century ever witnessed, from 54 balls.
McCullum has acknowledged he would not go down as the best batsmen or cricketer in New Zealand’s history and the statistics prove that.
From 101 Tests he finished with 6,453 runs, including 12 centuries, 31 half centuries and a Test average of 38.68.
However, his influence on the game since he assumed the captaincy in early 2013 is what many believe to be his legacy.
From a selfless innings that brought New Zealand’s first Test triple ton against India in 2014 to a sheer determination in the field that exacerbated his back injury late last year and kept him out of several limited overs matches.
‘You’re the type of player that puts bums on seats’
IMAGE: Brendon McCullum of New Zealand is congratuated as he leaves the ground after his final Test in Christchurch. Photograph: Ryan Pierse/Getty Images
Most importantly though, was the change in team culture and performances under his stewardship that brought the crowds flocking back to the game after years of accepting mediocrity.
“Cricket in New Zealand is on a tremendous high,” former New Zealand fast bowler Richard Hadlee said at the end of the game. “That’s down to you fellows and the way you play the game.
“Brendon, it is an end to your career, the end of an era. You’ve been an inspirational captain.
“As the great Viv Richards said, ‘you’re the type of player that puts bums on seats, people will come down to watch you’ and I think that’s a tremendous tribute.”
McCullum admitted it was disappointing to end his career with a series loss but he would still celebrate “with plenty of beers” alongside his team mates before he contemplated his future on Thursday.
‘It’s been a pretty arduous run’
IMAGE: Brendon McCullum of New Zealand speaks during the presentation after his final Test. Photograph: Ryan Pierse/Getty Images
The cricket gear would not be ceremonially burnt, at least not on purpose, he added with a grin.
“I’ll be a bit dusty, I’d say. I’ve got 14 years to make up for,” he laughed when asked how he would wake up on the morning after the night before. “I’ve got not much on the go. A bit of golf, a bit of racing, probably play some darts.
“I’ll just spend some time with the family and take a breath as well. It’s been a pretty arduous run.”
He was unsure how he would be judged but hoped he made a difference and restored some pride to the team.
“To a degree, you hope you’re kind of remembered as a guy who played with a lot of passion, a lot of pride in playing for his country and played the game for the right reasons as well,” he said.