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Brendon McCullum: England Test coach faces major challenges in new role | Cricket News Sky News

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James Cole discusses the priorities of former New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum as he is announced the new England Men’s Tests head coach.

James Cole discusses the priorities of former New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum as he is announced the new England Men’s Tests head coach.

Following his surprise appointment as England Test head coach, Brendon McCullum faces several crucial decisions that could dictate his success in this very difficult role.

The former New Zealand captain takes over a side that managed just one win in their last 17 Test games, with 11 defeats in that time, and can only clock two guaranteed names on the squad sheet (condition permitting) for McCullum’s first test in charge on June 2.

Taking on a Test coaching role for the first time after working in franchise cricket since retiring in 2019, McCullum will have to rely heavily on his playing experience as he navigates his way through a period of major upheavals for the English men’s game.

The man who appointed him, Rob Key, only took over as ECB managing director for men’s cricket in England last month, while Ben Stokes was confirmed as Joe Root’s replacement as test skipper just a few weeks ago.

McCullum, who appears set to complete his role as head coach of the Kolkata Knight Riders in the Indian Premier League on May 18, is expected within a week of that date to name his squad for England’s three-game series against New -Zealand.

Form a Vaughan-Fletcher-like bond with Stokes

A hugely important factor in rebuilding England’s red ball team will be the relationship between head coach and captain.

England’s top teams of the 21st century were aided by close partnerships, with Michael Vaughan and Duncan Fletcher combining in the early 2000s, before Andrew Strauss and Andy Flower led a formidable unit at the start of the next decade.

In a 2015 interview, McCullum discussed the importance of the relationship between a captain and a coach to a team's success.

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In a 2015 interview, McCullum discussed the importance of the relationship between a captain and a coach to a team’s success.

In a 2015 interview, McCullum discussed the importance of the relationship between a captain and a coach to a team’s success.

As Stokes is part of the England setup, McCullum was a hugely popular figure in the New Zealand dressing room throughout his playing career, and it’s hard to imagine the two affable personalities struggling to bond.

McCullum, who has broken international and franchise cricket records throughout his playing career, can also sympathize with Stokes on the challenges facing the modern multi-format cricketer.

Closing the gaps in England’s midfield order

Stokes has already announced he will hit at No. 6, while he has also confirmed that former captain Root will return to his preferred position at No. 4. That leaves four other prime hitting slots with some uncertainty. around them.

England look likely to start the summer with openers for Alex Lees and Zak Crawley, with the pair set to be given another opportunity after ousting Haseeb Hameed and Rory Burns following their struggles during the Ashes.

Lancashire striker Josh Bohannon has been touted on his international debut

Lancashire striker Josh Bohannon has been touted on his international debut

However, there is extreme uncertainty over who will get the green light at No. 3 and No. 5, with Stokes himself having urged players to “raise their hands” for the roles.

The most likely candidates for the positions appear to be Jonny Bairstow, Dan Lawrence, Ollie Pope and Dawid Malan, while Lancashire’s Josh Bohannon could squeeze his way into the race at the start of the test if he can continue to score points in the county championship.

Constant changes to personnel during England’s desperate run at bat have failed to improve the situation, so no matter who is selected, McCullum and his coaching staff will need to provide strong technical and mental support s they want to succeed.

Foakes, Bairstow or a return of Buttler behind the stumps?

One factor that could impact McCullum’s selections further up the order will be who he chooses as his wicketkeeper.

You may have forgotten that McCullum started his career as a hugely successful wicket-keeper batsman, before back problems forced him to give up the role in Tests, and eventually shorter formats.

His expertise behind the stumps puts him in a strong position to choose between Bairstow, Jos Buttler and Ben Foakes.

In 2015, then New Zealand captain McCullum joined Nick Knight in giving a masterclass on the pitch.

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In 2015, then New Zealand captain McCullum joined Nick Knight in giving a masterclass on the pitch.

In 2015, then New Zealand captain McCullum joined Nick Knight in giving a masterclass on the pitch.

Buttler has been dropped for the West Indies tour, but with McCullum just watching him play for the Rajasthan Royals in the IPL, it might be tempting to give the 31-year-old another chance.

Centuries for Bairstow in the final Ashes Test and first game in the West Indies seem to give him a strong chance of being included, but McCullum might think the best way to get him into the team is with the gloves.

Foakes is arguably the best glover of the three, but his inability to top 50 in six sets in the West Indies left him vulnerable.

Keep England’s fast bowlers healthy

Key and Stokes have already made noise to suggest legendary English bowling duo Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad, who were also dropped for the West Indies tour, have a strong chance of being included in the first Test against Nova Scotia. Zealand on June 2.

Remarkably, Anderson, who turns 40 in July, and Broad, who turns 36 in June, might be the healthiest fast bowling options McCullum has at his disposal. Although he hasn’t excelled in the absence of Broad and Anderson in the Caribbean, Chris Woakes has been a reliable performer on his home soil, but looks set to be unavailable at Lord’s.

Simon Doull discusses the appointment of former New Zealand team-mate McCullum as England manager.

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Simon Doull discusses the appointment of former New Zealand team-mate McCullum as England manager.

Simon Doull discusses the appointment of former New Zealand team-mate McCullum as England manager.

Ollie Robinson showed huge potential during his short international career, but the 28-year-old’s body let him down on several occasions. He must prove to McCullum that he is ready to put in the physical labor necessary to allow him to cast important spells at full speed.

Then there’s the express trio of Mark Wood, Jofra Archer and Olly Stone, the latter appearing to be non-starters, having recently been heard to consider retiring from cricket after back surgery.

Wood was enjoying his best physical condition in the Test arena before an elbow injury ended his West Indies tour, and will surely need to be handled with care.

Jofra Archer is expected to return from his chronic elbow injury later this month

Jofra Archer is expected to return from his chronic elbow injury later this month

Last, but not least, is Archer. A chronic right elbow injury has kept him out of action for England in any format since March 2021, but he looks set to return for Sussex in the Vitality Blast later this month. The 27-year-old insists he still wants to play Test cricket but admits he needs to prove himself in the shorter forms before it even becomes a possibility.

McCullum, along with Key and England’s new white ball head coach, must devise plans to manage England’s fast bowling talent more effectively in the future. Whether it’s a reduced schedule, different training regimens, or just a case of luck, something clearly has to change.

Watch Brendon McCullum’s first set in charge of England live on Sky Sports, as his side take on New Zealand in three Tests, starting at Lord’s on June 2.

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