“Must be beginner’s luck, to wish upon a star, that opened up my eyes, and there you are.” Even in his wildest imagination, Elvis Presley would have never thought of a certain guy named Brendon McCullum when he wrote that song. But it just perfectly sums up McCullum’s early days as the head coach.
Presley couldn’t believe that a lady so gorgeous had fallen in love with him. It defied logic to him, just how McCullum’s appointment did to the rest of the world. Presley alludes to this as beginner’s luck. For the cricketing fraternity still unable to understand the logic behind this appointment, they too can brush off his performance as just beginner’s luck.
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Perhaps some things in sports lie beyond the scope of empiricist epistemology, just like love. There’s no truth here. A captain drops from heaven, the listing ship gets stabilised again, the chairs on the deck stop their rolling motion, the navigation charts that were scattered all over the bridge realign themselves. The team that was struggling to amass 200 runs is now chasing 378 for fun, the team that lost 16 out of their last 17 games has now won four in a row, and the talks about systemic reforms, that arose after their Ashes debacle vanish into thin air.
What has changed, exactly? How does a change in hierarchy eradicate Jonny Bairstow’s glaring weakness against in-swinging deliveries? What catalyst did McCullum add to the process? Among many records they obliterated in the last few weeks, the most significant is the speed at which they escaped the nadir. Trough to crest in 30 seconds.
Tactically, there’s no grand shift. They just score more than their opponents. When Ben Stokes won the toss, he chose to bowl first. Asked to explain his decision, Stokes said,” We’ve done well chasing and it’s also to see how the wicket will behave. Gives us the opportunity to keep the momentum rolling.” On the fifth day, Stokes cheekily commented that he wished India to get 450, just to check how their team hunt it down.
Cricketers’ comments are not to be taken at face value. Maybe Stokes was pissed off in the dressing room, for their bowlers allowed India to race away to 378. Or maybe not. Here, I am Team Stokes. With the kind of record-breaking spree they are currently on, any target doesn’t seem out of their reach. They are not only chasing it but smothering it down. And they do so with a big beaming smile on their face. The living embodiment of Killing Me Softly. Like a cute boy who leads 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. Soon after completing the winning single, Joe Root wiggled his finger towards McCullum. It was a tribute to McCullum, who had been doing this the whole week after watching Elvis.
“Ben (England coach Brendan McCullum) has wanted us to be entertainers, he’s mentioned trying to be ‘rockstars’ on the field,” Root said in the end. “Ben watched the Elvis Presley film the other day, and he’s been doing that all week, so it’s a little tribute to him.”
Root also talked about how he felt like a rockstar for those “ten seconds” when he was doing 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 might have done today (laughter). That was what the little pinky was about. And so it’s more just about trying to have fun and really relish every opportunity you get to go and showcase what you’re about and, you know, put on a show for everyone.”
Featured Image: England Cricket