x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

McCullum must be clear about his role

Brendon McCullum's response in the second one-day international against Pakistan showed his desire to be world-class.

Brendon McCullum was demoted from the vice-captaincy prior to this series. His opening position was being questioned and he was close to being dropped. His response in the second one-day international against Pakistan showed his desire to be world-class. He has played in 162 ODIs but his 131 was only the second century of his career. You would have thought he would have had more than that.

I am a McCullum fan, I have been since I saw him play as a precocious 18-year-old. His style on the pitch is aggressive but to me he has never clearly defined what style of play he wants to consistently turn out. The key word here is "consistently". I have seen him play the aggressor role, the anchor role, the accumulator role and the watchful role. A jack of all trades can render you a master of none and this is where McCullum has been for the last two seasons.

He is still only 28 and the innings he played on Friday at Zayed Cricket Stadium in Abu Dhabi should be a blueprint for the rest of his career. It was masterful. He will fail playing this way, probably more often than not, but by executing his game in this manner he gives his team the best chance to win. He has to have the strength of character that, when the media pundits question his dismissals, he merely responds with "this is the best for the team".

He is coming in to his best years. He should wrap up this innings on DVD and carry it everywhere: his shot selection, shot execution and courage to execute were excellent. I have not seen a lot of Martin Guptill play but he looks composed. And once Jesse Ryder is back in the New Zealand top four and gains experience, he is set for an exciting future. It is the No 5 position that is the issue. I would like to see Daniel Vettori there. While seemingly doing more work than most, he is the best batting accumulator the team have. This is no slight on Scott Styris or Jacob Oram.

This is a case of the best man for the job. The two previous names are better hitters than Vettori, whose slogging capabilities do make him look like he is using a piece of wet celery. I do not think batting at five is asking too much of the inspirational captain. In fact, I believe it will take pressure off him because when he comes in to bat he is doing what he does best - playing for time and taking the singles.

Defining roles is key for the New Zealand team. The players should not hope for someone to perform their tasks. They must know they are in the best position to make the team win. Their win against Pakistan will have a massive impact within the New Zealand squad. Sport allows you no time to rest, physically and mentally. And suddenly Younus Khan, who was rightly reinstated to the captaincy after the debacle following the Champions Trophy, finds himself within a whisker of an unexpected series loss.

His play has looked heavy and his captaincy looked lost when Guptill and McCullum forced him to change his normally reliable, metronomic spinners during the middle of the New Zealand innings. The Black Caps will know that predicting how Pakistan will play is like trying to read a woman's mind. The third ODI now has so much riding on it for everyone that we will see who has the mental conviction to impart their skills and who is found wanting. The big players will be Mohammed Yousuf and Younus for Pakistan. Their partnership could set up a victory. For New Zealand, it will be Ross Taylor who was dormant in the first two matches. Now is his time.

Chris Cairns played 62 Tests and 215 ODIs for New Zealand between 1989 and 2006 sports@thenational.ae