Exclusive Interview With Brendon McCullum

Brendon McCullum talks exclusively with Cricket World ® about the Commonwealth Bank and Chappell-Hadlee Series and the upcoming World Cup. With a few hours to go before the first ball how do you feel about the first Chapell-Hadlee One Day Series between Australia and New Zealand in Wellington? We are keen to bounce back after the disappointment of the Commonwealth Bank Series. I guess it is a luxury to be able to play Australia straightaway, we have to be back on our game and it is something that we are all looking forward to, I hope we can kick things off with a win. Is the World Cup overshadowing this competition? Possibly, but we are trying to link them together. I think the World Cup will be decided on who has the most momentum going into the tournament. It is great to have the opportunity of playing really tough cricket leading into the World Cup; it just highlights the fact that we have to be at the top of our game. The CB Series was obviously a disappointment for the New Zealand side. You seem to have a very well balanced side though. What were the team’s reflections of the series? Yes, it was gutting to be honest but we took a lot out of it as well. During the series we played some outstanding cricket but also some below par cricket. We have to rectify the mistakes we made. The tough thing to take away from the tournament was that when we did play poorly it was during vital moments. If we can get ourselves into those situations again and deliver then we will come out on the right side of things. With the World Cup just round the corner do you think the CB Series may be a blessing in disguise in some ways? Yes and no, it certainly focuses the mind. When you hit rock bottom you have that real fire inside to rectify things and get back on top. However, when you are winning and playing well you have that momentum and confidence. It’s a double edged sword in many ways. Can New Zealand be a real contender in the World Cup? We are aiming to be there at the business end of the World Cup. During the last few years we have looked down the track to the World Cup and put systems in place to give us the best opportunity in the competition. We have put a lot of pressure on ourselves and we have sacrificed a few results for the bigger picture. But from that we have given ourselves a lot of depth, in terms of the squad, and we have also played in high pressure games in order to know how to react to those high pressure situations. The squad and the management are all under pressure to get to the final but that’s the way we like it. Do you think the teams in the CB series will be in the semi finals of the World Cup? You certainly expect England and Australia to be there, it's not rocket science, Australia are the best team in the world and England are also right up there. England have got some serious momentum in the last few games so you would expect to see them there at the end. It depends how we all play in the conditions out in the Caribbean. Stephen Fleming said that putting on a big total is vital, as a keeper how do the team look to bowl against that? If you have the bowlers that can blast out teams then you have to look to take early wickets within the first twenty overs. If you don’t have those bowlers at your disposal then you have to try and deny the batsman the opportunity to make quick runs, which can be tough during 50 overs. If you can guarantee yourself to get 250 plus every game then you are going to win more than you loose, without a doubt. From our point of view that’s what we try and do because we know our bowlers will be there or there abouts. Do you think that the wicket-keeper batsman is the most valuable player in world cricket? We’re getting to the stage where a wicket-keeper batsman is very important to the make-up of a good One Day side. Gone are the days when you played an out-an-out keeper, wicket-keepers have to be able to contribute to the score, a good keeper batsman caters for two players in one. Most teams have one but there are other vital players such as Andrew Symonds, Flintoff and Jacob Oram who contribute with bat, ball and with their fielding. There has been a lot made of Paul Nixons’ style of wicket keeping, what do you think is the role of the keeper? I think Nixon hypes things up a bit, he’s a bit over the top and I think it would annoy the hell out of our team. There’s a time and a place for that kind of thing, in my view. As a keeper you are the focal point and at times you have to try and conduct the field a bit, but that’s always in conjunction with the captain. If the intensity isn’t there then you have to try and get it back somehow. You have to make sure the field is slick and sharp so that when opportunities happen you are in the best mindset to take it. Everyone’s got there own individual style and Nixon has waiting along time for his chance. He has made an impact on the England team but I can say that his style wouldn’t be suited to every team. Brendon McCullum was talking to Tom Cowle shortly before New Zealand played Australia in Wellington, a match they went on to win by ten wickets.