Cricket: Keeping up with the play

New Zealand wicketkeeper Brendon McCullum celebrates taking the catch to dismiss West Indies...
New Zealand wicketkeeper Brendon McCullum celebrates taking the catch to dismiss West Indies batsman Jerome Taylor for 106 during the test at the University Oval in Dunedin in December, 2008. Photo by Peter McIntosh.
Otago and New Zealand cricketer Brendon McCullum is about to embark on a new era as a specialist test batsman. In this extract from his just-released book, he reveals some of his thinking behind giving up the gloves.

I tend to think that my principal role in T20s is to get the team off to a great start with the bat and it might be easier to achieve that more consistently if I give up the gloves for good in that form of the game.

During our two T20 internationals against the West Indies during the 2008-09 season I didn't keep because I'd had a big season already and my hands were pretty badly beat up.

That gave us an opportunity to bring Pete McGlashan in. The selectors wanted someone who could be explosive and innovative lower down the order so it was an opportunity to see if Pete could offer something in that role.

Last year, I was going to be keeping at the Twenty20 World Cup but when Dan went down with an injury things changed pretty quickly.

It is really hard keeping, captain-ing and opening the batting. I know [Adam] Gilchrist does it with Deccan Chargers, but personally I find it too onerous.

A lot of people believe wicketkeeper is an ideal place to captain from, but I struggle to do both jobs justice. I like the interaction you can have with the bowlers when you're in the field, particularly in the short-form games. In tests you can work to longer-term plans that don't require that constant communication.

In Twenty20 I think you can play a bigger role in some parts of the field, in terms of driving the fielding unit, than even the keeper can. This will probably go down as sacrilege in the Keepers Club, but I don't think wicket-keeping is that important in Twenty20.

Obviously, if you've got a part-timer wearing the gloves after you've had a genuine keeper it's a big change, but in New Zealand we're spoiled for choice.

A lot of the guys want me keeping. Dan would prefer me to keep and he is in charge, so more often than not I guess I will keep.

My hands are starting to become butchered, but that is par for the course in the keeping trade. I've broken pretty much everything in there and I've got a dicky back that is starting to give me a bit of grief, but that's not the major reason I want to hand over the gloves in Twenty20. For me it's about driving the game from the field and communicating constantly with the bowlers.

I've been keeping since I was seven years old and that has been to the detriment of my batting. I love keeping, it's part of who I am as a cricketer, but there's also part of me that looks forward to a day when I can concentrate more on my batting.

The other thing is that when you're a keeper you have an out, so to speak. If you fail with the bat you can often say that you're still on the top of your game with your gloves and it is like a safety net, really. I can see how taking away that safety net might bring the best out of me as a batsman.

The closest I've come to being physically wrecked by my role was the test against India at Napier during the 2008-09 season. We batted first and I scored a century, then we knocked them over and enforced the follow-on. It was such a flat track, though, and they dug in during the second innings so we ended up fielding for three and a half days. I could barely stand up at the end of that test.

Keeping is different to fielding, I don't care what anybody says. Not only do you have to be switched on every single ball but you're effectively doing 600 squats a day.

If I was to give away the gloves I think I can feel satisfied that I got the best out of myself behind the stumps. My margin for improvement as a keeper is much less now than what it was a few years ago.

I'm really comfortable at where I am at with the gloves, having mostly eradicated the basic errors that blemished my early career.

- Reproduced from Brendon McCullum: Inside Twenty20 (Hodder Moa), $39.99 RRP, on sale now.


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