It was, said Jonathan Agnew on Test Match Special, a “light bulb moment.” He mentioned the time he first heard Brendon McCullum’s name in connection with the England Test job as a coach and it also perfectly described my reaction.
Of course it made sense. The New Zealander was clearly the perfect man to come together with Ben Stokes and change the whole mindset of the England team. The only surprise was that none of us except Rob Key had thought of it.
How different things could have been if Key – who has been a breath of fresh air since he exchanged commentary for administration – had gone with Gary Kirsten, the man considered the all-time favorite for the job earlier this year.
England are blessed Rob Key chose Brendon McCullum (above) in his ‘sliding doors moment’
He was clearly the perfect man to help Ben Stokes (left) and change England’s mindset
The South African was so confident in getting the gig that he began rearranging his life and interests in Cape Town to make sure he was ready to make the move to England.
Instead, he had to make do with the remaining Welsh Fire coach, whom he led to exactly no wins in eight games in the Hundred after a struggle in Cardiff. Talk about a ‘sliding door’ call for England.
It was Trevor Bayliss who said that a good coach puts himself out of work because he makes the players take responsibility, and McCullum has been the epitome of that approach ever since he walked into Lord’s in his jeans, white trainers and dark glasses.
Everything about McCullum was all about fun, fun and entertainment, banishing pressure and fear of failure.
The training sessions were short and the coach made a very relaxed figure on the edge of nets or on the team balcony. “I don’t really do much, to be honest,” he insisted in the wake of England’s sixth victory in seven Tests this summer.
How different things could have been if Rob Key (l) had gone out with hot favorite Gary Kirsten (r)
‘Just let the boys do what they were born to do: play cricket in the style and manner they want and try to bring the group together and make sure they have a good time.
“My job is to make sure we always remind ourselves that this job is supposed to be the best time of our lives, being a cricketer at the highest level and trying to create memories that you can look back on in time. There are results, but it’s also the fun and camaraderie that you build. Hopefully we have been able to achieve that.’
McCullum may downplay his role in England’s transformation, but don’t listen to it. He’s not Chauncey Gardiner in Being There. He is one of the most important and influential figures cricket has seen in the last 10 years.
And it’s a huge advantage for England that Key could see what a man with no red ball coaching experience could bring, when few others looked beyond the usual suspects.
The training sessions were short and he made a very relaxed figure on the edge of nets
Darren Stevens may walk away for the last time in a high profile match at Trent Bridge on Saturday, when he plays for Kent against Lancashire in the Royal London Cup final.
I say maybe because although he has announced that he will be leaving Canterbury, aged 46, at the end of the season, this extraordinary cricketer is looking elsewhere for another contract for 2023. Who says he shouldn’t get one too?
For now, just in case, enjoy him while you can.
Darren Stevens may run away for the last time in a high profile match at Trent Bridge
‘Little Chef’ is cooking a storm
The County Championship is back and one of the most misunderstood but highly effective artists has reached an impressive milestone.
When Sam Cook sacked Yorkshire’s Tom Kohler-Cadmore at Headingley, he became the first English bowler to reach 200 first-class wickets for under 20 apiece since Alan Ward in Derbyshire in 1971.
It was the latest example of the Essex bowler’s growing achievements, which saw him also play for the Lions against South Africa earlier this season and stand out for champion Trent Rockets in the Hundred with a white ball.
Essex bowler Sam Cook may have the makings to become an England Test soon
It has long been felt that Cook, 25, is not fast enough for the top tier, but that hasn’t stopped Matt Potts and Ollie Robinson this season.
What he does have is skill and, it must be said, one of the better nicknames on the provincial circuit.
While Alastair Cook has always been ‘Chef’ at Chelmsford, his younger namesake became ‘Little Chef’. More pertinently, he may have the makings of another England Test bowler.