Former New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum was named the coach of England’s Test side on Thursday, with a brief to shake the team out of its deep malaise.
McCullum will leave his job in charge of Indian Premier League franchise Kolkata Knight Riders to take charge of a red-ball side that has fallen to bottom place in the World Test Championship after a dire run of one win in 17 matches.
Leading the revival is a sizeable task for the 40-year-old, who has never coached at first-class or Test level, but is renowned as one of the sport’s most progressive thinkers and dynamic leaders.
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As New Zealand skipper he set the side on the path to their current golden era – last year they won the inaugural World Test Championship and they have reached the finals of the past two 50-over World Cups.
McCullum, who will team up with new captain Ben Stokes, saw off a strong field to earn a four-year deal, edging out candidates including former South Africa and India coach Gary Kirsten.
The hard-hitting batsman, who won 101 Test caps before retiring from international cricket in 2016, was adamant he could bolster the fortunes of an England team still reeling from a 4-0 Ashes hammering in Australia and a recent 1-0 defeat in the Caribbean.
“In taking this role on, I am acutely aware of the significant challenges the team faces at present, and I strongly believe in my ability to help the team emerge as a stronger force once we’ve confronted them head-on,” he said .
“I’ve enjoyed several robust conversations with Rob Key (England director of cricket) about the direction of travel for the team and have found his enthusiasm contagious.
“I’m no stranger to bringing about change within a team environment and I can’t wait to get started.
“Ben Stokes is the perfect character to inspire change around him, and I look forward to working closely with him to build a successful unit around us.”
Key added he was looking forward to seeing the New Zealander work with Stokes, who replaced long-serving skipper Joe Root last month.
“I believe in Brendon and Ben Stokes – a formidable coach and captain partnership,” said the former England batter.
“Time for us all to buckle up and get ready for the ride. I believe his appointment of him will be good for England’s Test team.
“He has a recent history of changing cricket culture and environments for the better and I believe he is the person to do that for England’s red-ball cricket. We were incredibly fortunate to have a seriously strong list of quality candidates for the post, with Brendon demonstrating he was our number-one choice. ”
Former England captain Michael Atherton said McCullum’s appointment could turn out to be an inspired choice.
“To give Brendon McCullum the Test job – a week or so ago, I don’t think that was on anybody’s radar, so he has not made the obvious choice here, but I think it’s a very bold choice actually,” he told Sky Sports News.
“He is a nice fit with Stokes, they both approach the game and play the game in a similar manner.
“They will look to get a very clear message, captain and coach, from the same page, to a team that now you expect to be given a bit of freedom and license to play.”
Chris Silverwood, who oversaw both red-ball and white-ball cricket, was sacked as England coach after the Ashes drubbing in December and January as part of an overhaul of the backroom team.
Pending visa approvals, McCullum will arrive in Britain in time to lead England in a three-Test series against his home country, which starts at Lord’s on June 2.
England are still searching for a white-ball head coach, with internal candidate Paul Collingwood strongly tipped among another strong pool of applicants.