England will be back ‘bigger, stronger and more refined’ – Brendon McCullum

By Sports Desk March 10, 2024

Brendon McCullum will seek to fine-tune England’s approach before the summer after admitting they went into their shells during a chastening tour of India.

England head coach McCullum and captain Ben Stokes won 10 of their first 11 Tests in charge but have lost seven of the last dozen following a 4-1 reverse in India.

McCullum and Stokes have shown a resistance to making adjustments since taking charge but they let several competitive positions slip against Rohit Sharma’s side, demonstrating a lack of ruthlessness.

McCullum did not go into specifics about how England go to the next level ahead of home summer series against the West Indies and Sri Lanka but accepted there were instances where they seemed unsure of themselves in India.

“India probably outplayed us at the style of cricket that we want to play and made us start to retreat a little bit so that’s something that we will have to change,” McCullum said.

“If anything we got more timid as the series went on. It is something we need to address because other teams will put us under pressure as well and we can’t really allow that doubt to creep into our game. We need to have total conviction in what we are doing in those pressure situations.

“We will allow the dust and hurt to settle a bit and then use that to make changes we need to ensure we are a better version of what we have started out as.

“We will have some time to reflect and come back bigger, stronger and more refined.”

McCullum and Stokes have allowed players the freedom to express themselves and that, in turn, has brought accusations there are not enough honest conversations in difficult moments.

But McCullum said: “While we’re both very relaxed and happy to make sure everyone’s enjoying themselves – they’re excited to play in big series and not anxious as such and trying to let their talent come out – let’s not mistake that for us not having a hard edge.

“We didn’t get where we’ve got to in life and in our careers without having some sort of hard edge as well.”

McCullum was similarly dismissive of the suggestion batters are not under enough pressure for their spots following several collapses in recent weeks, but added those on the fringes must make compelling cases.

“At this stage, these are the guys we believe are the best cricketers to win a series,” McCullum said. “If it doesn’t play out, of course if someone is nagging down the door you look at that.

“Certainly nothing is closed to anyone, it’s just that you have to bang the door down.”

After an innings-and-64-run defeat in Dharamsala inside three days, Stokes defiantly warned “write this team off, write me off at your own peril”.

He averaged 19.9 with the bat but made a heartening return to bowling in the last Test and should be back to being a fully-fledged all-rounder by the summer.

“I actually think he wanted it too much with the bat,” McCullum said of his captain. “He was trying to give himself every opportunity to build a big innings to ensure when the pressure moments came, which he knows how to deal better than anyone else in the world, that he was going to be the man to be there.

“It takes us away from being totally present in the moment. He tried his best and wanted it too much but he’ll be back.

“To have him back in full operation is a huge positive for us and moving forward allows us to know we can balance the team in the right way.”

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