When Brendon “Baz” McCullum walked into the English dressing room as Test coach, most people were dumbfounded. He had been a successful T20 mentor with Kolkata Knight Riders in the IPL and Trinbago Knight Riders in the CPL (Caribbean Premier League). But to push someone from T20 straightaway to Test coaching was precarious for both the team as well as the coach.
However, it seems like England’s management knew what it was doing as instant results followed under Baz and his new commander-in-chief- Ben Stokes.
Stokes, who was born in New Zealand, the country where McCullum rose to the ranks of a legend, has won the ODI World Cup and the T20I World Cup and looks primarily focused on winning the World Test Championship to complete a treble that no other player in the cricketing world has done so far. So what does he do to achieve his dream? He follows the path laid out by McCullum.
Attack is the best form of defence
The Bazball method’s simplicity lies in confusion-less cricket. Attacking all the time is the key, but not attacking blindly is the mantra.
To understand this, the recent MultanTest against Pakistan is a great example. When Pakistan lost Abrar Ahmed, and only Salman Agha remained the batter who could score, England spread the field to allow him a single but kept three men catching so that the opportunity to get him out was not lost, and at the same time, they were not giving away boundaries either.
On the last ball of the over before England’s victory, Wood bowled a slower short ball trying to induce a mistake from Agha but ended up giving a four. That four took the target down to just 27 runs with the last pair on the crease. However, it also allowed Ollie Robinson to ball six balls to Ali, the number 11, instead of Agha, though he required only one ball to Pakistan all-out.
Bazball works in all conditions
The critics of Bazball said that it could only work against weak bowling attacks in England. Though New Zealand and South Africa (Two teams against whom England won three-match series at home) are by no means weak bowling attacks. In Rawalpindi, when the English batters scored more than five hundred runs on the first day, the pitch took all the credit.
But in the second innings on that same pitch, the English bowlers bowled Pakistan out and won the match because the target was set in such a manner that it seemed achievable, and hence the other team didn’t go in the shell to defend it out.
It was a turning pitch in Multan, and England didn’t even cross the 300 mark once. Pakistan did cross the 300 mark in the fourth innings and threatened to chase the target down with their score 285-5, needing just 70 more with five wickets in hand. What does the Bazball do, then? It goes for the attack.
Ben Stokes brought in his spearhead pace bowler Mark Wood and, with a leg slip and a short leg in, asked him to bounce the Pakistanis out, and that’s what he did. Bazball is a meticulous approach of never letting the game die and always seeking results. You might search for a result, but at least you will be satisfied with the attacking approach and the method behind it.
Why is Bazball important for Test cricket?
In an interview with ICC, Ricky Ponting, an Australian cricket legend, said McCullum’s approach is not to shy away or hide out from danger but rather face it head-on and beat it out. Test cricket is also in peril of disappearance, with people’s interests turning to shorter formats like T20, The Hundred and T10.
To save the oldest format, approaches like Bazball are necessary as they would make results inevitable even with the red ball. Draws would also seem competitive because at least one team will be going for a win, and the other will be fighting tooth and nail to survive, making it a nerve-wracking finish in the game.