Brendon McCullum seeks unified England culture as he turns to Eoin Morgan and Matthew Mott for support

Brendon McCullum seeks unified England culture as he turns to Eoin Morgan and Matthew Mott for support

Brendon McCullum, England’s new Test coach, says that his existing relationships with Eoin Morgan and Matthew Mott, the new captain-coach partnership in the white-ball set-up, will help to create an environment where both squads are able to “sing from the same hymn-sheet”.

McCullum, who is due to arrive in the UK next week ahead of the first Test against New Zealand at Lord’s on June 2, told the ECB website that splitting the red- and white-ball roles was the “only way forward” given the volume of cricket that England play across formats. However, having worked with both Morgan and Mott over the years, most particularly during their shared time at Kolkata Knight Riders, he is confident of creating a culture that can transcend the dressing-rooms.

McCullum – who was master of ceremonies at Morgan’s wedding in 2018 – added that he and Morgan still speak “most days”, while their professional relationship includes the captain-coach alliance that took KKR to the IPL final in 2020. Mott, meanwhile, was an assistant coach at the franchise during McCullum’s playing days in 2008-09, six years before he began his record-breaking stint as head coach of Australia’s all-conquering women’s team.

“[Split coaches] is the only way forward, because the other teams around the world don’t play the volume of cricket that England do,” McCullum said. “There is so much cricket, particularly post-pandemic, but if you look at the teams, there’s quite a lot of separation of personnel in both of those sides.

“I think it can really work, but the real key will be the relationships, and the understanding of what takes priority at key times,” he added. “What would be really cool is if you’re able to have a similar mindset which crosses over both red-ball and white-ball environments, and that’s going to come down to the relationships between myself, the white-ball head coach, the captains of both sides and Rob Key as well. That will allow us hopefully to sing from the same song-sheet.”

In terms of forging a unified vision for the Test team, McCullum is already confident that his beliefs will align with those of the new captain, Ben Stokes. “Hopefully we can play some entertaining cricket,” he said. “I won’t say ‘cavalier’, because that’s probably what other people expect us to do, but it’s certainly not how I anticipate us playing the game.”

However, as he gets to grips with the new responsibilities of the role, and sets about navigating the complexities for English cricket – not least the politics at the ECB and the additional media scrutiny – McCullum knows that Morgan will one of his most important allies, even if their paths won’t cross on a day-to-day basis.

“I talk to Morgs most days, just pick up the phone and say ‘hey boss’. We’re good friends, obviously,” he added. “Our beliefs on cricket and on life are pretty much aligned. Relationships are super-important to us, and loyalty, and also the ability to block out the noise and try and head towards what it is that you have as a vision.

“He’s going to be a real ally to me as well in the job, a man who knows the English structure so well. He built the white-ball structure himself and had tremendous success at it as well. So I’m looking forward to being able to call upon him at certain times over the next little while.”

Mott, who was unveiled in his new role on Wednesday, is due to take charge of the white-ball set-up for the first time next month, after capping his stint with Australia women with victory in the World Cup in New Zealand earlier this year. McCullum was excited about the chance to rekindle that relationship too.

“I know Motty really well. He was at KKR way back in the day when I started playing in the IPL, and we hit it off. He’s a really astute coach and a guy who coaches without ego. He puts players at the forefront, but still has a firm grip over an environment, albeit not a controlling one.

“He really encourages guys to be the best version of themselves as well, and he’s had tremendous success as a coach too, in both men’s and women’s cricket, which shows his ability to connect with a lot of people.

“He’s a wonderful guy. I’m sure his job is very different to the job I’ll have. He is very much trying to take a team from being very, very good to great. He’s shown us in the past he’s capable of achieving that, so our relationship will be very good. There will be times when we fight over players, no doubt, but we will try to come to the right decision for the player and English cricket as well.”

McCullum was involved in his first bout of England decision-making earlier this week, as he helped select a 13-man squad for the first Test at Lord’s. The chosen players range in experience from the recalled James Anderson and Stuart Broad, with 1177 Test wickets between them, to the uncapped pair of Matthew Potts and Harry Brook, and McCullum said that that disparity epitomised the challenge that lay ahead.

“Culture’s a really hard thing to define,” he said. “You come up with a style of play and try to build trust in a bunch of people. And when you get to know them really well, you know what makes them tick, what motivates them, and where they’re at in their lives as well.

“Bear in mind, you’ve got a cross-section of guys at 20 years of age, and guys at the other end of the spectrum, who are closer to 40 and have had long careers. You’re trying to engage all of them to play for one common cause. And that can only be achieved if people feel like they’re appreciated, and feel as if you have their backs as well, but that doesn’t mean that you don’t deliver strong messages when the time’s right.”

Anderson and Broad were controversially dropped for the tour of the Caribbean earlier this year, ostensibly to take such a seismic decision out of the hands of the incoming head coach. But McCullum said he had no qualms about welcoming them back to the fold, and said that he trusted the instincts of his captain on that issue.

“The fact was that Stokesy was so strong on it,” he said. “If you look at those two guys, they’re still hungry to perform not just for themselves, but also the team. One of the messages that I’ll try and get across to them is ‘how big a legacy can you guys leave for the next generation?’

“You’ve already achieved so much, you’ll go down as greats, but how do we ensure that their legacy goes on for a long period of time, so that we can extract that little bit extra out of them in the last couple of years of their careers. That’s going to go a long way to us being successful as an England side.

“But we are so incredibly lucky to have over 1100 Test wickets just waltz in into the line-up, and that certainly gives us a great opportunity to be able to tick off some key areas in our side. I’m looking forward to working with them.”

At the other end of the spectrum, there’s Brook – a 23-year-old former England Under-19 captain, and a man with 758 runs at 151.60 for Yorkshire so far this season.

“I rung Harry last night, I said, ‘hi Harry, it’s Baz McCullum’… he said, ‘oh, hi McCullum… oh s**t, I can probably call you Baz now, can’t I?’ It was brilliant. I am looking forward to meeting up with him. Obviously he’s got big raps on his game and he’s been banging them out in county cricket as well, so he’s another example of the talent which exists throughout the county system.

“Hopefully we can allow players to do what they’ve done in county cricket, and bring it to the next level. Just play with a bit of freedom and let that talent come out. He’s been referred to a little bit as a KP type of player. If he’s half as good as KP, we’re going to be going okay.”

Overall, however, McCullum hopes he can encourage the players in his Test team to seize the moment wherever possible, and enjoy the challenge as they do so.

“What’s the saying, ‘plan to live forever and live as if you’ll die tomorrow’? I’m very much aware of the mortality of a coach as well. But if there’s one thing I believe, it’s just to try to be where your feet are. Try and enjoy the opportunity and the moment right now.

“A lot of people want things in time, and yes, you have to have an element of planning involved, but sometimes you miss the good times that you get to experience every single day as an international cricketer. Just enjoy the moment, immerse yourself, have a good time with the guys, and make some memories along the way.”

Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo. @miller_cricket

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