Written by Staff Writer
03 Nov, 2015 | 8:16 am
Brendon McCullum has said the death of Phillip Hughes, and its aftermath, played a big role in how his team approached their cricket over the last year.
New Zealand were in Sharjah when McCullum heard the news of Hughes’ death – after he was hit on the neck in a domestic game – and their Test against Pakistan was postponed by 24 hours to give players time to grieve.
“It felt like he was one of us,” McCullum said in an interview, recalling the incident. “It was this horrible feeling of knowing it could have been any one of us. We didn’t want to continue. I was looking around the sheds and thought there was no way we could get these guys in the right space to play cricket.” New Zealand cricket roped in mental skills coach Gilbert Enoka to help the players deal with the tragedy.
Enoka, who had worked with the All Blacks rugby and other professional teams, suggested to the team management that the players should be self-absorbed for that one Test. “What you saw was a team playing without feeling,” McCullum says of the series-levelling victory, in which he starred with a rapid 202.
“What we learnt was that when you play without any of the pressures and expectations we normally put on ourselves, your skills can be properly expressed.” The week after Hughes’ death would prove to be a turning point for the New Zealand team, McCullum said. The senior players talked a lot about the way they approached the game and realised that New Zealand had never carved their own cricket identity.
“Most of it emanated from us being semi-embarrassed about the way we had played in the past,” McCullum says. “It has to be authentic and it may not last – you can’t force it down people’s throats – but this is the way I want this team to play and I know the senior guys have similar feelings on it.
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