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When New Zealand rolled out a green top for the second Test, it indicated Brendon McCullum’s attacking captaincy. Though the chances of the Kiwi pacers dominating India’s strong batting line-up on such a surface were bright, the hosts didn’t really have to try. They needed only a draw to seal the Test series and end the home season on a high.
But that decision fitted well with the image of McCullum the batsman too. Indian fans would best remember the tattooed warrior who smashed a match-winning 158 in the inaugural Indian Premier League match in 2008.
Having ended an almost four-year spell without a Test century against West Indies at home and then piled up 224 against India in Auckland, there was every reason the in-form batsman would look to push the game forward.
But with his team in serious trouble, the 32-year-old grinding out an unbeaten century could prove to be one of the most defining innings by a Kiwi batsman. It can pull the hosts to a position of strength from near certain defeat.
For McCullum, the steady trickle of runs than a torrent, in nearly six hours braving right hand cramp and a left shoulder problem on Sunday, will go to establishing himself as the premier batsman in the side.
Significantly, it came with Ross Taylor absent – his wife gave birth to a boy early on Sunday and there were Twitter jokes requesting him bat in the second innings. McCullum replacing Taylor as skipper had caused tension between the two.
India gave him two lives but he curbed his aggression when MS Dhoni left the off-side field open to tempt him. Batting coach Bob Carter said the knock had raised his stock as a Test batsman. “Brendon has really shown his defensive game has come forward. He is growing in stature as a Test player.”
He needed attention from the physio, but Carter had an interesting take. “The funny side of it is that Brendon had a little bit of a shoulder injury from shining the ball yesterday! He was trying to get it to swing a lot as well as trying to get it changed a lot. And then he was joking today that his bottom hand was playing up. I prefer it to be his top hand actually.”
McCullum acknowledged the demands of captaincy. “As captain that is what you have got to try and achieve. You are not always going to, but you have got to try and work your game to the situation,” he said.
“If we had been rolled over in this Test, it would have been slightly disappointing after how successful the summer's been. That is the beauty of winning consistently and not finding yourself in too many of these situations. When you do find yourself in them, it seems a bit easy to get out of it.”